Remorse sleeps during a prosperous period but wakes up in adversity.
— Jean Jacques Rousseau, Confessions
It’s enough to make us all want to quit sending nude photos of ourselves to our closest friends. Of course, the propagation of the nude photo on the Internet by means of the iPhone is simply the latest example of a creative use to which that medium has been put by some of its owners.
When members of earlier generations wanted to capture images of events they wished to preserve for posterity, they did it by committing the event to memory, if a private sort of event, or to film, if a non-private event. Images of public kinds of event that were preserved for posterity were taken with cameras and the subjects would be shown doing all sorts of things like climbing mountains, sailing ships or simply sunbathing on beaches. When recording memories of times on the beach, the raciest photos were defined by the coverage afforded by the bathing suit in the photograph. Times have changed.
The iPhone as camera has found opportunities to display its skills in places where few, if any, of their owners would, in days gone by, have thought of taking cameras. Although the new discovery may seem titillating to the iPhone and its owners, there is a downside to the use of the iPhone to preserve memories of what may take place in the bedroom. The downside becomes apparent when the parties to the bedroom activities are no longer friends and the events were recorded on the iPhone. If the possessor of the iPhone wishes to embarrass the former friend, he or she can simply e-mail images from happier times to mutual friends, not didactically to show what sorts of activities the former friends had engaged in, but vindictively to embarrass the person who didn’t own the iPhone. At least one court has addressed the issue of use of photos of lovers engaged in amorous pursuits once the pursuit has ended. A German court ruled that at the end of a happy relationship either party may be required to delete “intimate or revealing photos and videos” that the couple made in happier times. The court’s ruling did not apply to pictures taken of the woman when fully clothed since the court observed those had “little, if any capacity” to compromise the woman.
We have now learned that it is not only the ordinary who enjoy photographing themselves, either alone or with others in what in earlier days would have been considered private poses and activities. September arrived with the news that some prominent celebrities’ e-mail accounts had been hacked and pictures they had intended to share with only a few select friends were now being shared with the world. Those unfamiliar with modern ways may wonder why anyone takes a selfie or asks a friend to take photographs of himself or herself without the benefit of clothing. Even greater wonder is inspired by the question of why, having been taken, they are posted in a place where a hacker can discover and disseminate them on the Internet. Whatever the reason, it happens and now we can all enjoy photos of some celebrities wearing only what they were given at birth. Those whose photos have been shared with the world are, of course, furious even though in most cases (unless surreptitiously taken) they are the ones responsible for the photographs having been taken in the first place. It is not, however, only the celebrities who have been embarrassed by the disclosures. Apple has been as embarrassed by the distribution of these pictures as the unclad celebrities, albeit for different reasons. Endless news stories and editorials have criticized the company for the fact that the iCloud is not as secure as people thought and suggested that the fault lies with the company and not with the celebrity stars. There is, of course, another way to look at it.
Even if a celebrity has been told that he or she has “a heavenly body” many people might wonder why its possessor would want to place its naked image in the iCloud for friends to see. In announcing the breach of iCloud security that permitted the heavenly bodies to be viewed by the general public, one headline exclaimed: “Leaks of nude celebrity photos raise concerns about security of the cloud.” The headline might more appropriately have read: “Leaks of nude celebrity photos raise concerns about the good sense of some celebrities. ” It is easy to demand an explanation from Apple as to why its site can be hacked by voyeurs. Someone should demand an explanation from the aggrieved as why they posted the images in the first place.
Christopher Brauchli is an attorney in Boulder. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.