Is There in Truth No Privacy?

The recent breach in iCloud security, in which private celebrity photographs (many nude) were accessed and distributed without permission, proves the point I've been making for a long time: assume that anything you post online or save in the farthest reaches of cyberspace might be seen by strangers. Even with passwords and other measures to keep your personal content private, there is no guarantee that only you and your select friends will see those vacation pics, honeymoon videos, drunken chats after a night of bar-hopping, etc.

In George Orwell's prophetic novel 1984, his hero tried to escape the ever-watching eyes of the totalitarian government's "Big Brother." Nowadays, people willingly audition to be on a TV show named Big Brother to have the world watch their every move for a few months, all for the long-shot chance to win some money and fleeting fame.

We already know that everything we type on Google, Bing, or other search engines can leave a trail that alerts marketers, government snoops, and evil hackers to our potential interests. Every site we visit, every link we click, adds another tidbit to the profile of our online lives. Even if we frequently clear our cache and delete our cookies, we can never be completely sure that no ghost footprints are being left behind somewhere in the digital ether.

Apple has countered the news with proclamations that the iCloud is not as vulnerable as the current violation makes it seem, while simultaneously announcing new measures to assure that such an invasion won't happen again.

Celebrities are denouncing the hackers who grabbed their pics, chastising the media that distributed them, and lecturing the voyeuristic public who viewed them. It might be easy to criticize the stars by saying, "Naked poster beware," or even be cynical toward them, since some big names have feigned innocence when they themselves have created illicit photos and videos, leaking them intentionally, for the sole purpose of boosting the buzz around their "brand."

Yet, we should not take this matter lightly, nor assume that it's just a celebrity issue, or a one-time flaw that can be fixed and forgotten. Online privacy impacts us all.  We all know the dangers of identity theft. None of us want information about ourselves or our loved ones spreading without our intent or knowledge. Being forever alert makes us safer than the ones who don't care.

Let's be diligent with our online activities, just as we should be with security matters in the real world. We can't stop living, but we should use some common sense and be wary of the risks that exist. Only then can we combat them, while continuing to safely enjoy the services, opportunities, and conveniences that the digital age has provided us.

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