It would be a strange person who would argue we are not all entitled to privacy. When taking a bath, most of us would be alarmed were we to find a ladder at the window, allowing anyone and everyone to have a peek at us as we shampooed and scrubbed. And the idea of strangers watching us sleep is quite terrifying. So clearly, privacy is not only important, it's an essential human right. But is it something we passively accept or something in which we must actively participate and protect?
This week's news reveals at least two stars have had their privacy compromised; maybe as many as 100. The singer Rhianna and the actor Jennifer Lawrence, as well as perhaps Winona Ryder and Kelly Brook, have had internet accounts hacked, and photographs and videos of themselves naked have been stolen and distributed. The culprit is a user of the '4chan' picture sharing message board, calling himself (presumably this is a male) 'Tristan'. He posted the images on the site, asserting they were genuine and exclusive. Although initially the pictures were claimed to be fake, it eventually emerged they were probably genuine. Should you be tempted to take a look, I'm afraid '4chan' has since deleted the post. And rightly so.
But this raises some interesting questions. Firstly, Apple's iCloud back-up service (from where the images were pinched) claims robust security, with two layers of password protection. This has obviously been shown to be untrue. The hacker(s), penetrated the system with brute-force attacks. Essentially bombarding the account with thousands of attempted entries until it opened. Quite why iCloud does not seal or lock after a few guesses, I can't imagine. I am often locked out of sites because I've tried a few half-remembered, incorrect passwords. If Apple cannot guarantee security, who can?
'Isn't it astonishing that anyone would take unclothed shots of themselves and store them remotely?'
Perhaps more intriguingly, isn't it astonishing that anyone - let alone someone with a high public profile - would take a number of unclothed shots, and store them remotely? Maybe I'm just hopelessly out of touch. It's possible I'm the only person who doesn't collect photos of myself in the buff - but I don't. Why would I? And if I knew I was vulnerable to the prying eyes of the prurient and malicious, I'd certainly ensure I wasn't daft enough to dangle such material in the realm of the hacker.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm appalled to discover these women had their privacy invaded without consent. That's unfair and unpleasant. However, there must be an element of common sense involved. In the real world, we draw the curtains when we undress - surely the same applies in the digital terrain? Ultimately, although we know burglary to be a crime, we take the precaution of locking our doors to discourage it. Anybody inclined to assemble pictures of their own naked form, particularly those aware of the enormous interest in their private life, would be well advised to keep their collection in a boring old analogue format, locked in a drawer. After all, if we really value privacy, then it's everyone's responsibility to guard it.
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant.