Image rights, image wrongs


Another day, another hack. In the last month, a flood of high-profile data-thefts have plagued businesses and celebrities alike. Nude images of celebrities were stolen from iCloud accounts, propelling hacking news into mainstream headlines. This week, over 200,000 images sent using the ‘self-destructing messaging app’ Snapchat have been intercepted via third-party apps and shared on the web. Has the ‘Snappening’ shocked us sufficiently to look up from our smartphones and consider what we send through them?

Privacy activist Edward Snowdenadvises us all to stay away from popular services like recently-hackedDropbox, Facebook and Google, which – according to Snowden – don’t do enough to protect user data, from government organisations or otherwise. Peter Thiel, investor and co-founder of Paypal and Palantir, echoes Snowden’s sentiment, noting that “every time you write an email, it is in the public domain….security is not as good as people believe.” For Thiel, Snapchat’s security breach is especially troubling for a brand that hinges around the promise of privacy. The app has been criticised for failing to close technical loopholes that allowed unsecure third-party apps to access user content.

Who’s responsible for the leaks? Increasingly, tech behemoths like Apple and Google are being asked – or threatened with million dollar lawsuits – to police the internet for unlawful content, and new legislation has been made in the UK outlawing the sharing of intimate images without the consent of those depicted. Many argue that ultimate responsibility for an individual’s image lies with the individual themselves, and more transparency is needed from brands about the risks of sharing sensitive images. 50% of Snapchat’s users are aged 13-17, showing that while it is important that teens are taught to self-regulate net use, it is essential for brands to educate users and help them make better decisions about the privacy of their privates, before they are forced to learn the hard way.