Invasion of digital privacy

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

Illustration by Dan Nacu

The day will come when a nostalgia for the wild web exists, when the unfiltered nature of the internet during this day and age no longer exists. Whether the net will lose its neutrality or not is something that only time can tell. Even if it doesn’t come to that, we will still witness a restriction of what’s allowed on the web. That starts with the SAVE Act of 2014, something I touched on in last week’s column.

The bill would prohibit advertising the exploitation of minors on the internet. It’s a restriction that doesn’t infringe upon any person’s freedom of speech, but it does keep it from being wrongly abused. Something that may be even more relevant is the compromising of privacy.

The first widespread, highly publicized breach was the release of nude photos hacked from celebrity smartphones including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton and released under what the hackers called ‘The Fappening’ on Aug. 31. The second hack hit even closer to home. Snapchat was hacked earlier this month. What the hackers refer to as ‘The Snappening’ includes 100,000 previously “deleted” Snapchat photographs.

The demographic of the people victimized in this large scale hacking is incredibly troubling. The truth about Snapchat is that the amount of nudes that are sent in large part are between people with blossoming sexual curiosity, the underage population.

According to an Aug. 4 article on Digiday, 50 percent of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 17. I certainly am not one to say that the two 16-year-olds who are exchanging the photographs are at fault; it’s merely part of their learning curve. What they don’t know is if it’s digital then it’s essentially public. The hackers and perhaps Snapchat are at fault for facilitating these footprints in the first place.

The Subreddit, a user-created forum on Reddit, claims to be created for discussion of these leaked photos has become more of a request for child pornography; some commenters have noted when a certain girl is from their school and they typically request more pictures of her. Comments like this are not rare, they’re not individual. The Subreddit is littered with requests on how to find someone the person knows, or if you can look up leaked photos by usernames and requests for links to the leaked pictures, a majority of which are in fact child pornography.

On a Fappening Subreddit which discusses the Aug. 31 celebrity nude leak, a notice was posted that “Most of it is child pornography, and the whole subreddit could get in massive trouble.” The notice was under a request for users to not ask for or post these links in the comments.

Child pornography is illegal. Stealing someone’s photos in the fashion of either ‘cleverly’ named instance is not illegal. How can we allow someone’s privacy to be compromised to such a degree without any consequence? This isn’t innocent fun — it’s a sex crime. That it’s legal to leak these photos directly reflects the institutionalization of violence against women. It shows that our government tacitly supports the fact that one in four women will be assaulted in college.

Women are not objects. The fact that I need to point out that they are human is devastating. The American Bar Association estimates that annually 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the U.S. That means that the numbers amount to more than the population of the Richmond Metropolitan Area. If you aren’t shocked and astounded yet then I don’t know what else I could say to make you want to be part of turning the world upside down, to become a part of the dramatic change needed in not only Richmond, Virginia, or even the U.S., but in the entire world. I plead with you, don’t be the problem. Be the solution.

These hackers deserve to feel the consequences of their actions. They deserve to be imprisoned for a long time. The governement must use their time for something worthy. This isn’t stealing intellectual property; these hackers are stealing something much more personal than that. The lawmakers must come to terms with the fact that these sex criminal hackers are essentially getting away with murder and in doing so are supporting the rape culture. They’re thriving off of the community that includes men just like them.

There must be a law put in motion. There must be an end to the invasion of privacy, to the sex crimes that minors, of age Snapchat users and celebrities have endured. It has nothing to do with net neutrality or going back to the days of AOL’s walled-garden internet. It has everything to do with limiting the abuse of freedom and in the process of doing so, preventing someone’s life from being scarred. It has everything to do with preventing the fear of exactly how many people have seen nude pictures of you or the person you love without consent.

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