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Blame technology-ignorant victims for photo hacking

Smart celebrities don’t take off their clothes in a professional setting unless they’re handsomely paid. But some of them are apparently dumber than junior high schoolers when it comes to their personal nudies and the Internet.

Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Kate Upton and others whose naked images were snatched last week from the cloud are wise to the ways of the paparazzi and other merciless privacy invaders. They were understandably ignorant about the brazen cyberjackass ethic on 4chan, but their foolish faith in cloud service privacy settings is utterly stunning.

These women are walking, talking cash generators. I’m sorry, feminists, but their bodies are commodities. Their nude photos are valuable digital assets first. Secondarily, they are the product of intimate interludes. It’s impossible to overstate the stupidity of entrusting these assets to the cloud.

Valuable digital assets belong on proprietary servers that aren’t connected to the Internet. While there’s plenty more to say about the security and privacy takeaway from the so-called great celebrity nude photo hack, the social commentary surrounding it is more fascinating.

No, this was not a sex crime, and yes, I blame the victims. It’s offensive to diminish rape by comparing this cybertheft to a sex crime, a trend observed in The Washington Post.

On a purely personal level, these celebrities aren’t any more violated than thousands of other women who, in private moments, consented to nude photos only to discover later that they’d been exposed to the world on social media sites.

As a noncelebrity, when someone posts your nude photos without permission, you have an uphill climb getting anyone to care. The social networks, which are the customary cloud venue for such privacy invasions, are notoriously indifferent to requests for help from ordinary women. You’ll have a tough time getting acknowledgment of a privacy violation, never mind any talk of a sex crime.

Meanwhile, they’ll utter the most overused phrase in the industry. “We take user privacy very seriously.”

Your attorney, if you can get one to take your case, will have to spend far more time than you can afford confirming the identities and chasing the online activity logs of your ex-boyfriend or your peeping-tom neighbor, the likeliest culprits. That’s because the culprits, too, are often users of the cloud service in question. Maddeningly, the social media sites exhibit reluctance to violate their privacy.

Pursuing justice through the courts is unlikely to pencil out for you or your attorney. Consequently, there aren’t many lawyers interested in representing everyday victims in such cases.

Jennifer, Kirsten, Kate and the others are famous and fabulously wealthy. Their attorneys are already deployed, and the FBI has sprung into action on their behalf. Their photos have been removed from most of the sites where they appeared, in some cases with an apology.

Your case is unlikely to capture the attention of the FBI. Your local police and district attorney might get involved, but be advised that such inquiries come with unintended consequences, especially if you have children, or perhaps you’re in the midst of a divorce and a custody dispute.

You and I and Kate Upton are different in some obvious ways, and let’s just say I’ve declined to waste the time of the good folks at Sports Illustrated by submitting my swimsuit photos for consideration. But if my image were the key to my earnings, you can bet I’d take a serious approach to guarding it, and that means hiring experts besides the publicists who regulate traditional information flow. I’d have my own personal cybersquad regulating my digital information. I’d pay for private storage, I’d use two-factor authentication, and I’d have hardcore rules about the places where my image lives.

Kate and the girls could learn a few things from hanging out with me.

Samantha Stone is a Nevada journalist who has covered digital privacy and security since 2008.

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