At the heels of yet another privacy violation of a number of prominent women in Hollywood, the internet has been buzzing with both feminist debates and discussions on the right to privacy. This morning, I saw an article in the paper entitled “So is this the end of privacy?”
It’s not uncommon to freak out when these high profile cases come up. Just as when shootings make the news, the sentiment becomes that we are not safe. In those cases, the implication is that our personal safety and that of people and things that hold meanings to us are at risk. In this case, the implication is that our information and our pride are at risk.
This leak is a living indictment of the death of privacy, is it? Their cellphones were hacked without their knowledge and the information was removed without their consent. I think it’s the idea that someone else can maliciously take our stuff and profit off of it that gives most people the heebie-jeebies.
It doesn’t scare us too much though, does? I mean, let’s consider for one, the growing rate of people using the internet – even on their unsecured phones, to make bank transactions, access personal websites, and even store valuable documents and images. We clearly aren’t that scared.
And for good reason. Fact is, if you put on basic encryption onto your smartphone (often available for free or near free), you’re generally too much work to steal data from anyway. I opt to avoid keeping anything of any particular value on my cell (I’m the type of person who leaves the thing on the bus) but that’s me.
Let’s step back from that though and compare identity theft 50 years ago versus today.
50 years ago, before all this newfangled tech nonsense, you could just go to a bank with a piece of paper that confirms that you are who you say you are, and access your money. These pieces of paper were exceptionally easy to forge, and you could be completely wiped out financially by someone going to a branch you don’t frequent often and emptying your life savings.
Today, we have legislation which has triggered the creation of some exceptionally complex departments whose whole purpose is to spy on you. Their purpose? Simple. If your spending looks unusual (and we are creatures of habit), they call you up to make sure it’s you using the card. For example, when I had my debit card read (it wasn’t stolen, the number was pulled off at some ATM) – I got a call the same day. The thief tried to take out large sums of money at a branch in an area I’ve never even purchased something near. They caught it and cancelled the card right away. That could never have happened in the days of pen and paper.
My grandfather didn’t believe in banks. He kept all his money in whatever was the soviet equivalent of your mattress. Say he was robbed one night. If he has ten grand in cash that money is gone. If he had the money in a bank that can track purchases, all he’d need to do is cancel the card and confirm his purchases. The bank would return any money that was fraudulently spent.
My biggest issue with this crime outside of cyber space is not the content of the material or even my disappointment in modern people knowing so little about basic technology they use every day.
When you think about it, considering that the photos were released for free suggests that the motive behind this crime was simple – shame these women for being women. None of those exposed are hyper conservative publicly. It’s not as if the idea was to shock us into seeing these women in a different light. They are already sexual in much of their public appearances. It was to remind us that just because we like them doesn’t change one terrible fact about them – they’re still women. Bits and all.
But seriously. This is like the people who say they’ll quit Facebook when Zuckerberg comes down with another round of privacy changes. Shit or get off the pot. There are far more significant ways in which our privacy can and is violated, but unfortunately the only way to avoid the risk is keeping it offline and under lock and key.