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Jennifer Lawrence’s leaked photos highlight feminism’s next frontier: cyberspace

2 September 2014

5:53 PM

2 September 2014

5:53 PM

Nobody wants naked photos of themselves leaked across the internet so a global network of creeps can beat off to them. But celebs and plebs alike are increasingly confronted by this unsavoury reality. Whether it’s anonymous hackers or enraged ex-boyfriends who post the images, the story is the same: women are being let down by their ignorance of the pitfalls of technology.

You should be able to take naked photos of yourself. But if you choose to store them using technology that isn’t secure and that you don’t quite understand, there’s every chance they will reach places you’d rather they didn’t.

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In the case of the latest leak, in which around 100 celebrities have been targeted, it’s obvious that the women involved believed that the technology they were using was secure. Apple’s iCloud does seem secure, after all. But when the stakes are high, the hackers raise their game. In this case, their methods worked: graphic images and videos have whizzed round the internet. They aren’t exactly hard to find (and, despite all the self-righteous posturing, people will be trying – men and women alike).

Rather than getting into a debate about the politics of revenge porn, it would be far more productive to address the real problem: many women are completely clueless about digital privacy and data. We are addicted to our smartphones and load them up with all sorts of sensitive information, but have no idea how they actually work. The ‘cloud’ sounds cute, cuddly and safe – a haven for your lovely memories. But ignorance of how the cloud works has done untold damage. Many of the women involved in the latest hack thought explicit images had been deleted from their phones. They weren’t aware that flaws in security left them undeleted elsewhere on the internet.

Knowledge is power – especially in cyberspace, which is full of nerds and weirdos who for many years were ostracised by society. They know how to code; they know how to hack. Some of them are making money in Silicon Valley; some of them are exacting cold revenge on society. It’s their way of getting back at the world and, in this case, at the sort of women who, if they met them in real life, would never give them a second glance.

Feminism’s next big step should be into the realms of technology. Girls must learn to protect themselves online by taking meticulous precautions against digital theft. We must beat the creeps at their own game. At the moment, our ignorance is playing into their sticky little hands.

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