We are all aware that the Internet is a public forum viewable across the globe, void of the concept of privacy. In contrast, we believe in the sanctity and privacy of our own bedrooms. Unfortunately, these days it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the line in between can be found. Gone are the days of private information storage consisting of a lock and key. When cameras transformed into phones and photo albums morphed into digital media, our personal memories became available for public auction with our privacy going to the highest bidder.
Most recently, hackers targeting celebrity accounts brought this topic to the forefront. The public release of sexually explicit, nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead catapulted the issue of digital security into the medias focal point. This is not, however, a brand new phenomenon.
In 2012 a man named Christopher Chaney targeted Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, and a co-worker. He went so far as to send the co-workers photo to her father. He was charged and pled guilty to nine felony counts. During his sentencing phase Ms. Johansson tearfully stated that the photos were taken with her then-husband and were certainly not for the public. Another victim recounted how she had contemplated suicide out of sheer embarrassment. Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his actions and probation upon his release.
Online intimidation of women has reared its ugly head in various ways throughout the age of digital media. It was less than a year ago when the feminist blog writer of Skepchick, Rebecca Watson, was the recipient of death threats via email. When Brianna Wu posted online regarding her views of sexism in video games, she too was the victim of death threats, some so intense she was forced to leave her home. The FBI was involved in both cases.
Attorneys, Apple, and the FBI gave no precise explanation for the recent celebrity security breach even after investigations by all. Apple has publicly denied any breach of the iCloud storage system; iCloud automatically backs up media from Apple products and stores it digitally. The primary goal for this feature was convenience. The timesaving efforts by Apple seem to be overshadowed by the access others can grant themselves to this cyber storage room.
The common theme among each incident is the ability of the perpetrator to remain anonymous, hidden behind a computer screen. While Mr. Chaney suffered the consequences of his actions, many others will never even be identified.
After being targeted for online harassment, Brianna Wu commented to NPR that this form of intimidation will surely continue until people believe there is a real likelihood of getting caught. Indeed, while the laws in this area are quite clear, its impossible to convict anyone without a defendant. Anonymous online threats present an entirely new ballgame for law enforcement. Unlike crimes committed in person, hackers can find ways to disappear without a trace.
At Brownstone Law we believe in the sanctity of your privacy. Please contact us if you have been targeted by hackers or have been the subject of an online security breach.
Speak with an appellate lawyer.