The Leaked Jennifer Lawrence Photos and ‘The Fappening’

The Internet can build a chaotic news phenomenon so quickly, it’s scary – especially when it involves famous people.

A user on the image sharing forum 4chan, posted private pictures of over 100 celebrities, in an apparent hacking leak linked to the Apple iCloud service. Some of the victims include Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, and dozens of other young women who are allegedly naked in the photos. Some of the big names whose pictures have been claimed as hacked include Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, Rihanna, Aubrey Plaza and Victoria Justice.

The (still, for now) anonymous user who first posted the pictures online claimed to have additional leaks, including explicit videos of Lawrence, and actually asked for donations via PayPal and Bitcoin in exchange for posting them.

When activated, iCloud automatically stores pictures, contacts and other information online, allowing users to sync this data across different devices using a login and password. This seems to be the way the perpetrator accessed the celebrities’ information and files. The amount of stuff leaked, though, is quite baffling.

The phenomenon has been dubbed ‘The Fappening’, and is now being investigated by the FBI. “The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter,” said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI. “Any further comment would be inappropriate at this time.”

A representative for Jennifer Lawrence called it “a flagrant violation of privacy,” adding, “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”

Kate Upton was also among those whose real photos were leaked. Her lawyer called it “an outrageous violation,” and added they “intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible.”

Almost two years ago, a hacker named Christopher Chaney, who leaked photos of Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, and over 50 celebrities, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. You’d think this precedent would make anyone think twice about another massive leak of private pictures – especially considering the A-list nature of the victims – but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

The legal repercussions for this type of scandal can be very gray. Federal laws protect most websites that host these pictures, absolving them from the responsibility for material posted by third parties.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who admittedly had taken the pictures years ago with her husband, tweeted about the incident: “Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked.”

The victims of the leaks have been wrongly exposed, and yet, they’ve had a lot of backlash from people. The greater assumption is that if they didn’t want their pictures seen by everyone, they shouldn’t have taken them in the first place; which is just a ridiculous take on the incident. No one should have any restrictions on the material they use for personal purposes, and having those private pictures posted so everyone can see them is a clear violation of their privacy. Shaming them for doing what they want in private is a highly misled course of action.

While admittedly most of us enjoy the idea of looking at beautiful people naked, this is certainly not the right way. It’s an invasion of privacy of monumental proportions, and it should serve as a starting point to truly question the privacy options we have in the digital age and how secure we really are.

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