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I Can Look at Your Data If I Want To

Updated on October 5, 2014

I Can Look At Your Data

Edward Snowden risked his life trying to warn us about this, so, sorry, but I don’t really understand the big surprise at this “Celebgate/Fappening” scandal. True, Snowden was warning about government abuse, and this was not the NSA who released these picture, but I feel the point is still the same: Whether it’s people attached to the government, or just private citizens, your data is not safe.

This leads me to, and is the basis for, my next point. I don’t have sympathy for the celebrities involved in this scandal. Really, anytime something “bad” happens to a celebrity, or someone generally wealthy, I tend not to have much sympathy. I know money isn’t everything—I don’t need a lecture on that—but money can certainly help make up for something like this. However, this issue has many additional complexities to it. As I’ve already alluded to, the reason this case specifically does not elicit much sympathy from me, is that, by now, everyone should know that your data is not safe. Think about it this way: if someone from the NSA were to access your data, what would stop them from leaking it? People in the NSA are still people, after all, and they certainly do have access to your data. However, it is quite possible that these pictures were taken before Snowden blew the whistle on the government agency, so I’ll let this point slide. Yet, in a more general sense, the point still prevails, because we’ve always known to some extent that our data is not safe. For example, if police get a warrant, then they can access whatever data they deem necessary, which means any of your data can be accessed. We’ve always known this. So, knowing that police can access your data with a warrant, it’s only logical to deduce that a hacker without a warrant could do the same. So, I posit that if you don’t want nude photographs of yourself leaked to the public, don’t take nude photographs of yourself.

Society of the Machine

When a power hungry robot named Sudokus tries to take control of the galaxy, Earth becomes the last safe haven. It is then up to the humans, and what else is left of the rebellion throughout the solar system, to try to halt Sudokus’s progress. But Sudokus won’t easily be stopped, as he is fighting for more than imperial gains. He is also fighting to preserve his immortality.

Follow Leon’s journey as he attempts to save himself and his planet from being forever ruled by a machine while simultaneously trying to answer the question of whether the corruption of a robot would be any worse than the corruption of the people in power on his own planet.

Society of the Machine

Society of the Machine: Leon
Society of the Machine: Leon

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Is it "wrong" to look at the leaked photos?

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To be Clear...

To be clear, Obviously the hackers are in the wrong. You should not access people's data without their permission. However, that seems obvious to me and, as such, it was not the question I was addressing. Instead, I wanted to address, given that the pictures have already been leaked, should you as an individual look at them? It's certainly wrong and regrettable that this happens, but since it did, what should we do in the long term and the short term?


To me, when you take a photograph of yourself (or allow someone else to do so), or if you post something anywhere on-line, you have to know that there’s a chance that the data will become available to the public. In this case specifically, the celebrities all posted these photographs to the cloud. To me, anything you post on-line is public. It doesn’t matter how private or secure you think it is, if I post something on-line, I figure that if someone wants to see it badly enough, they’ll find a way. It’s just the nature of the internet. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s right, but the world doesn’t function with any sense of right and wrong. However, just because I’m of the opinion that you must accept that any of your data can get leaked, that does not automatically mean that I believe each individual should make the choice to view that leaked data. So, in this case, while there was almost an inevitability of this happening (if not with these specific celebrities, then with others, and if not now, then perhaps within the next five years) that doesn’t automatically mean I or anyone else should look at the pictures.

However, is it wrong to look at the pictures? I’ve heard smart people whom I highly respect on many issues argue that since these celebrities did not agree to have these photos become public, that they are non-consensual, and since they are sexual in nature (some implicitly, some quite explicitly), this is a form of sexual violation. I however, must respectfully disagree. The pictures are not “non-consensual.” Although the celebrities did not consent to the pictures becoming public, they did consent to the pictures being taken. By taking the pictures, I believe they have, in a sense, consented to them becoming public, since, as I’ve already stated, you must accept that any data you create can potentially become public. I really do mean any data too, not just on-line data. I keep a private journal for myself, written with pen on paper, and I’ve even accepted that my journal could become public—there’s not really anything stopping someone from taking it off my desk and then sharing it in any way they want. So if even something as secure as my journal could become public (rightly or wrongly), then to think that something posted to the cloud could have any sort of guaranteed security seems ludicrous to me. So, yes, if the pictures were taken against the women’s wills, then there’d be no debate, but since they allowed the pictures to be taken, it makes the issue murkier.


This, however, still leaves unanswered the question of whether you have any moral or ethical obligation to abstain from looking at the pictures. Knowing that, in my opinion (given the nature of data and its accessibility), the celebrities have no reasonable expectation of privacy, should you as an individual look at these pictures, or should some moral principle compel you to refrain? I suppose, even after all this, that the only answer you can reasonably come to is that you should not look at the pictures. Why? Simply out of the principle of respect. Although the pictures are public, the women would not like you to look at the pictures, so if you respect their wishes, then you should not look at them. With that said, I do not condemn or disparage anyone who has looked at the pictures. Respect is not an ideal so universally dogmatic as to say that you must respect a stranger’s every wish (and let’s face it, we don’t actually know these celebrities, so they are strangers) to the point of not looking at a picture of them.

Not to mention, we break this principle of respect with celebrities all the time. Have you ever thought twice about looking at a photograph of a celebrity taken by a paparazzo, when that paparazzo did not have the celebrities permission to take the picture? I have heard no one object to looking at these pictures, yet this may be a worse crime from the pure standpoint of principle, since the celebrities consented neither to haven the photograph taken nor to its public release. In the celebgate scandal, at least the photographs were taken consensually. This point becomes even stronger if you’re willing to argue that nudity should not be that big of a deal, and there’s really no difference between a picture of someone clothed, and someone unclothed. However, I doubt I can convince everyone of this, so I won’t spend time arguing that point.

So, no, there is no moral imperative to not look at the “celebgate” photographs, however, a strong, personal sense of respect could lead you in that direction. Whatever you decide, the point is…we really need to reign in the NSA and praise Edward Snowden for the hero that he is.

Morality Police?


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