Massive Celebrity Nude Photo Leak is Major Privacy Breach

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If you’ve been on the internet in the last few days, you’ve probably seen news stories about a massive leak of celebrity nude photos. In a rather uncouth display, the mass release has been dubbed “The Fappening” by the internet. It’s a mix of “The Happening,” and…I’ll let you figure out the other part on your own. Celebrities included on the steadily growing list include Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kirsten Dunst, Kaley Cuoco, Ariana Grande, Kate Upton, Victoria Justice, and more. Some, like Mary Elizabeth Winstead, have acknowledged that the photos were real, while others like Victoria Justice claim they are fakes.

The pictures mostly surfaced on reddit and 4chan beginning on August 31. The photos then made their way to Twitter and other more mainstream sites. Most of the photos seem to have been obtained through hacking iCloud accounts. Put extremely simply, that means that the photos had been stored by the celebrity users to their personal accounts that included storage in the iCloud network. Benefits of the iCloud include the ability to access it from multiple accounts and locations, as well as freeing up space on a hard drive or other storage device.

How exactly the hackers obtained the nude photos is uncertain — they could have exploited a security flaw that Apple was unaware of, or they could have obtained the celebrities’ emails and then managed to gain access to their passwords by guessing security questions or some other method. Since celebrities seem to have been specifically targeted, the average user probably shouldn’t be too worried about sensitive material being stolen off their clouds right now — but the whole controversy does raise questions about cloud-type storage. The FBI has now gotten involved in the scandal and it appears to be searching for the hacker(s) who managed to get into the iCloud accounts and released the photos.

The whole fact that the photos got out in the first place is concerning. Celebrity pictures are leaked frequently, but usually just one or two. These leaks encompass hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photographs of young women whose privacy was seriously invaded for no other reason than the fact that they are both attractive and good at their jobs. And not only have their private accounts been hacked, the omnipresent internet trolls are more than willing to make fun of them for their concerns. Many have said that because the women took the pictures and uploaded them to the cloud at all, they deserve to have them released en masse.

Seriously? These women took pictures in the privacy of their own homes, with no intention of releasing them to the public. True, uploading them to a possibly hackable network was their own choice, but it was far from a damnable one. Imagine that these women had nude pictures taken of them by a peeping tom or a stalker. I have to think the public outcry would be greater — at least I hope it would be — but I don’t really see a huge difference. Either way, privacy is being ignored. The photos that have been leaked were stolen, plain and simple. And now that they’re out there, they’re going to be almost impossible to get down.

There’s a reason that one of the classic nightmare archetypes is realizing that you’re naked somewhere. I have a feeling that even if you’re a famous celebrity, that holds true. To all the people who are looking at the photos right now, please remember that those are real people who did not consent to have these pictures released to the public. Remember that before you look, and think about how you’d feel to have the entire world see your naked photos. I have a feeling it’s eerily similar to a nightmare.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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