A Reminder In The Wake Of Snapchat Leak: Culpability Lies With The Hackers, Not The Pic-takers

"I wonder what creepy Internet hacker is going to do with this later?" Credit: Thinkstock

Once upon a time, a young woman contemplated the best present to give her boyfriend for his birthday. She loved him deeply, and they had been through a lot together. The young woman ultimately opted to buy him a nice watch from Macy's online store. Even though she generally doesn't buy stuff online, the young woman thought this was a worthy cause, that a celebration of their love was a worthy cause. The watch arrived, and her boyfriend loved it. He stared at it in amazement, ogling its beauty. He felt so lucky and special. Shortly thereafter, the young woman discovered that a hacker had stolen her credit card information when she'd purchased the watch, racking up sky high charges for stupid purchases (fast food? Mike's Hard Lemonade? A Volcom snow jacket??). It took the young woman months to track all down all charges and get them replaced.

Poor lady, right? Stealing her credit card information was wrong, leaving the woman feeling violated. We can likely all agree that the person who stole her identify is a thief, someone deserving of sharp prosecution under the law.

Now reimagine the same story. Replace that "nice watch" with a series of naughty naked pictures. Do the same with "credit card information." (And, if you want, you can even replace "truly loved" with "kind of liked.")

Both kinds of transgressions happen—yet one attracts a helluva lot more victim-shaming than the other. 

The Skinny On The Latest Hacking Scandal: 'The Snappening'

Sadly, we can't control the actions of others, even when their actions are egregious—like those of the individuals who recently hacked hundreds of thousands of Snapchat photos through the third party app SnapSaved in an act being referred to as "The Snappening." Hackers have compromised Snapsaved's database, which is used by individuals who opt to hold onto evanescent Snapchat photos, and now 500 MB worth of Snapchats have been leaked online.

SnapSaved is taking responsibility for the leak; it has released statements expressing apologies, and the site is temporarily down. Because many users don't use Snapchat for sexual purposes, most of the pictures are (apparently) fairly random—reportedly of shoes and whatnot (as I personally refuse to view stolen pictures, so this conclusion was based on Reddit quotes I tracked down.) That said, because Snapchat reports that 50% of its users are between 13 and 17 years-old, the Snappening incident wades into child pornography territory. But even if all of the pictures were indeed completely "innocuous," hacking and publishing them online is still a gross invasion of privacy. 

Regardless of what we do with our private time, no one deserves to have their personal information exploited. This includes nude photos. In the wake of the released celebrity photos and the Snapsaved hacking, much of the blame has shifted to the victims—or worse. The first Celeb Leak incident was even called "good PR" for the celebs by hackers. Others are speaking up to encourage others to "just say no" to sending nudie pics.

Good sense may tell us that exes can be cray—we shouldn't throw gasoline while they hold a match. But remember: at some point, every ex was a beloved confidante. Infatuation wreaks havoc on our senses. Not to mention, accurately predicting the future behavior of a partner is never feasible.

When facing a scandal like this, it's important to place the blame where it belongs: firmly in the hands of the person exploiting a system of trust. Be it an ex, or an elite Lisbeth Salander-like hacker, this is a violation. Sending nude pictures is a choice, but those who partake do so because they trust the recipient and the server. Let's bear in mind that we trust the online world when it comes to finances and our medical histories, among myriad other personal things.

So why are we demonizing those who opt to have some fun? We shouldn't. With every hacking that occurs, let's place blame on the thieves who take advantage of fits of passion and wrongly violate the boundaries of others.

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