Making photo leaks a crime, not a scandal

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Many of us probably rolled our eyes and went in search of real news when we heard about the celebrity photo leak and iCloud hack in August, when numerous nude and semi-nude photographs of popular actresses, models, and other celebrities were leaked onto the internet. Many probably never thought something like this would happen to the general public, full of boring, average non-famous people, until it did on Oct. 9, 2014. According to James Cook of Business Insider, hackers gained possession of “at least 100,000 Snapchat photos,” which included an extensive number of “underage nude pictures.”

 

Snapchat is a smartphone application that allows users to send pictures and messages to other users that disappear after a set number of seconds. It has been used to send sexually explicit photos between users under the assumption that those photos would be deleted. It was through Snapchat users’ utilization of a “third-party Snapchat client app” in order to save Snapchat photos that people sent them that the leak occurred, which totaled to a 13GB assemblage of Snapchat photos and videos that hackers were able to take advantage of, according to Cook. Hackers leaked the photos stolen from this third-party app onto the website viralpop.com, which has since been taken down, but not before “thousands of people … downloaded the collection of Snapchats,” Cook wrote. Cook’s full article can be found at http://www.businessinsider.com/snapchat-hacked-the-snappening-2014-10#ixzz3GhGaHwGQ.

 

Nobody wants our teenagers’ pictures to be used for child porn, spreading around the internet while websites like Google and Twitter, along with internet forums like 4chan, profit from these pictures that individuals did not consent to having shared. Google should not profit from helping people find and share these stolen, exploited photos, and Twitter users like Leaked Snapshots should not be allowed to spread these photos unchecked.

 

“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” actress Jennifer Lawrence told Sam Kashner, contributing editor of Vanity Fair. The issue of these photo leaks is about strengthening sex crime laws. It is about making sure websites do not profit from the victimization of minors and other private individuals. “The law needs to be changed, and we need to change,” Lawrence said to Kashner. “That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it.”

 

In looking at Ohio’s sex offenses laws, listed under Chapter 2907, these crimes seem to fall under “pandering obscenity.” Pandering obscenity is described as when individuals knowingly “create, reproduce, or publish any obscene material, when the offender knows that the material is to be used for commercial exploitation or will be publicly disseminated or displayed, or when the offender is reckless in that regard.” The full description of the law can be found at http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.32.

 

Pandering obscenity only takes care of the individual or hackers who stole the photos. Companies like Google only respond in terms of copyright infringement. According to Samuel Gibbs’ article “Google removes results linking to stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence nude” in The Guardian, Google had to withdraw links leading to leaked photos of Lawrence due to the “takedown requests (that) were filed under the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA), with her lawyers Mitchell Silberberg (and) Knupp stating that the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright.” However, the website that link led to has switched its domain, “which has caused the site to be re-indexed by Google and reappear in search results under the different website address,” according to Gibbs, whose full article can be found at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/20/google-search-results-linking-stolen-nude-photos-jennifer-lawrence.

 

“It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting,” Lawrence told Kashner. Lawrence is expressing the idea that as long as no harm is coming to anyone, adults should have the right to choose what they do in their private, consenting relationships without outside threats of public humiliation hanging over them.

 

The sharing of nude or semi-nude photographs is happening regardless of whether it is seen as a poor and inappropriate moral choice lacking in judgment or as a method for consenting couples to share amateur boudoir photos that they may believe will nurture their relationships. We are justifying these actions, however, when we say that the individuals should have never taken those photos if they did not want them to get out and shared against their will. That reinforces the idea that the perpetrators had a right to take those photos when they did not.

 

When technology adapts, crime does as well. It should not fall under freedom of speech for websites to share those photos when it was a crime to steal them in the first place. It is a crime, and there need to be more laws to address this issue directed solely at websites that share and exploit stolen photos. Lawrence not only speaks for herself and for other prominent figures in her position. She is also calling for more protection for a new generation of people using technology to be intimate.

Hi Tech Crime Solutions