The internet is awash in both legitimate and “fake” celebrity nude photos. Some celebs “leak” these pics to grab some relevance or to help promote a new project. Others do it “just because” … but many, many celebs are embarrassed to have their privacy invaded when nudes are posted without their consent.
Such is the story for superstar actress Jennifer Lawrence of Hunger Games and X-men fame. When her obviously private and never intended for public consumption pics hit the net, the typically outspoken star was no less verbose. She called the hack and subsequent release of the photos on the net a “sex crime.” Many agreed with that assessment, but it didn’t stop millions from viewing or downloading the pics, against the express wishes of Lawrence and other stars, including Kaley Cuoco and Kirsten Dunst, who were targeted by the same hacker.
Now that hacker is looking at prison time. Ryan Collins, described in the media as “a 36-year-old father from Pennsylvania” has admitted to stealing the photos of Lawrence, Cuoco, Dunst and others. Prosecutors want Collins sent to prison for at least 18 months for his actions.
The plea highlights the dangers of phishing scams used to hack into phones and computers. Collins used official looking emails to trick his victims into giving up their account logins and passwords, allowing him to access their accounts and make their private information and images public. Collins allegedly posted those images to threads on 4Chan and Reddit, though he has not admitted to posting them, only taking them. While Reddit tried to expunge the photos from its site, those actions were too little too late. Once the internet has something, it’s all but impossible to make it disappear for good.
In addition to the invasion of privacy, there are other concerns in this case. Some of the celebrities exposed, including gymnast McKayla Maroney, were underage at the time, meaning her photos could qualify as child pornography.
But, as open and shut as this case may seem, Collins still may not do all the time prosecutors want. The phishing scam can connect him to the hack, but not to the posting. While prosecutors think he did it, they have yet to prove it.
This incident retreads the familiar ground of “what’s the line between public and private” in the life of a celebrity. Most people believe famous folks have the right to be as private as they see fit. Others seem to believe they have a “right” to whatever they want from that person because they’re a fan. Most people disagree, but that didn’t stop a lot of those people from looking at the images … even though they knew they shouldn’t.
Regardless of the various opinions on the matter and how they line up with people’s actions, celebrities must be aware that everything they do, even in private, can impact their public image. It’s a tough reality, but a true one.