In light of the hacked and stolen photographs of celebrities in the buff that were released online Aug. 31, technology users everywhere asked themselves, “Could that happen to me?”

The FBI is now involved in “Nudie-Gate,” investigating the identity of the anonymous hacker who targeted over 100 celebrities’ iCloud accounts including A-listers Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst.

“It’s obviously wrong and illegal that people hack into accounts like iCloud, but you’re a celebrity, you should be taking extra precautions,” Connor Cole, Richmond College ’16, said. “Anything digital can be found, even if it’s deleted. High profile celebrities should know that people are looking for material on them and if there is any, they will find it.”

The hacker who posted the celebrity photos could face a multitude of criminal charges including jail time, but online privacy and security are still a legitimate threat to everyday technology users.

A recent study by CNBC revealed that half of all homes in America own at least one Apple product. In response to growing fear of a potential glitch in all of Apple software, Apple released a statement Sept. 2 that stated, “After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone.”

While the celebrities’ hacked photos were “very targeted,” weak passwords are often an all too common reason behind Internet security vulnerabilities. Additionally, despite the increasing prevalence of iCloud storage, users repeatedly forget that although a photo or video may be deleted from a mobile or tablet device, it is still backed up by a cloud system, and therefore is never truly erased.

Donelson Forsyth, a professor in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies who specializes in social and personality psychology, commented on societal disillusion of privacy in the technology age. “If you don’t realize your phone is connected to the iCloud, you shouldn’t take naked photos of yourself,” he said. 

Forsyth also noted how previous generations, who grew up without such rampant technology use, took privacy for granted. “When you were at home, things used to be private. There was no constant sharing or communicating. Technology has reduced levels of privacy and your generation has a greater threat to their privacy because of it.”

Deciphering whether information is private is a struggle for technology users, millennials in particular, who lack memories of a time prior to the world of easy public access to information we now live in.

“I don’t really know how iCloud works. I’m not sure what photos are backed up to it and what information people can access,” Makenna Pohle, Westhampton College ’15, said.

There are many cloud systems on the market in addition to the Apple iCloud that was targeted in the photo hacking. Software titans Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and IBM also have cloud storage systems.

Clouds aside, the Internet and social media present complications for users who overlook the fact that their information posted is available to anyone. Pohle, a former member of the women’s lacrosse team, noted how “especially with Facebook, there have been incidents where teams have gotten in trouble or talked to for photos with alcohol.

“It is dangerous having stuff floating out there and there is no way around it with technology,” she said.

While few things are private in today’s world, those in the public eye such as athletes and celebrities are scrutinized the most intensely.

"You assume you’re entitled to privacy, but technology is now so present, so the expectation of privacy has turned to chaos. Nothing is private anymore,” Forsyth said.

Contact reporter Katie Thomson at katie.thomson@richmond.edu

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