When you hear sirens blare and see a cluster of police cars and ambulances, you instantly know something bad happened. As you drive nearer, you don’t need to see the bloody wounds to understand that someone must have been hurt. But, despite these warning signals, you still probably slow down as you pass to witness the actual damage yourself. It’s human curiosity.
Well, starting in August, there have been messes of a different kind slowing down traffic all over the Internet, and people are gawking just the same. “Videos and pictures of as many as 200,000 teenagers posted via the Snapchat service and stored on a third party website have been put online, apparently by the same people who were behind the posting of nude celebrity photos in August,” according to Charles Arthur’s article in The Guardian.
Hackers illegally accessed Snapchat photos that users saved through a third party application, called Snapsave, and then uploaded the photos Sunday to 4Chan, Arthur wrote. An estimated 100 MB of nude photos, including underage photos that qualify as child pornography, have surfaced. Additionally, the fourth wave of continuous celebrity iCloud leaks released multiple new, compromising photos, including the first male victim, Nick Holgan.
None of these people, celebrities and Snapchat users alike, chose to publicize intimate photos of their bodies. They sent their photos thinking they would remain private, which they should have. The gross invasion of privacy was originally lost on the media, which labeled the leaked photos of nude celebrities, a “sex scandal.”
Jennifer Lawrence, one of the celebrities affected, responded with a firm rebuttal in her Vanity Fair interview. “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” Lawrence said. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these websites 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. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”
Much of her anger clearly lies with the hackers for violating her privacy and Google for allowing the images to be accessible to Internet users. But the Internet users do not escape her justifiable fury. “Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense,” Lawrence said. “You should cower with shame. Even people who I know and love say, ‘Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.’ I don’t want to get mad, but at the same time I’m thinking, ‘I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body.'”
As Lawrence implies, there is a monumental difference between looking at photos meant for the public and those taken for private use but made public without the consent of the owner. The latter is just plain creepy. It is the Internet equivalent of spying from behind a closet door in someone’s bedroom.
But most viewers probably do not think of themselves that way. Most of them are probably just curious fans who are obsessed with their favorite celebrities or people searching for funny Spapchats, akin to sites like, “Damn You Autocorrect!” Even though they might think it’s wrong that these photos were released, they’ll still probably surrender to their curiosity and consider themselves guiltless in doing so. But this just furthers the initial wrongdoing. Internet users should curb their curiosity with regard to the leaked photos because that’s just feeding into the reason why people hacked into these accounts in the first place. No one would hack accounts for photos if they didn’t have an audience to release them to. Viewers are fueling the fire, not innocent bystanders. Each new view is a “congrats!” to the hackers and a strike for the people in the photos.
To anyone with hacking abilities: Please use your incredible skills for good. You have a lot of options, from whistle-blowing to simply taking our rivalry with Lafayette to a hilarious new level — shout out to the clever Lehigh student who hacked Lafayette’s Yik Yak.
And to the regular Internet users: Unlike in a car accident, each new pair of unwelcome eyes probing a stolen photo furthers the destruction. If every rubbernecker added a new scratch to the injured passengers, nobody would even risk a sidelong glance at the cars, let alone an outright stare. Consider the invisible wounds each new view inflicts on the victims of these cyber crimes.