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Is Nothing Private Anymore?

September 3, 2014

In a word: No. If you put it online, it’s public.

There were two data breaches over the weekend. One of them got all the press, but really had no impact on my life. The second got a small blip, but will probably be much more impactful, not just for me, but for many people than the first.

Okay, let’s address the first one. You know what it is. I know you know it, and you know that I know that. . .or something like that.

Someone hacked in and stole, and that’s what it was, it was theft. . .stole a bunch of naked pictures of celebrities. It’s brings up a couple of questions.

First is how did he (why are we all agreed it was a “he”?) accomplish it? Apple is saying that their iCloud service wasn’t hacked. Some of the actresses involved, (and again, it’s all women who were targeted, more evidence of a male crook) claim that the pictures were only in the possession of one other person, their boyfriend.

These women have been victimized and no doubt traumatized. I don’t want to attack them, but they are wrong. The photos were not only in the possession of one other person. The photos were undoubtedly stored in a cloud storage service and therefore they were accessible by any number of people.

My mother owns several original oil and water color paintings. One of my favorites is what we call “The Kite” picture.


This is my limited edition numbered print.


It’s about 8×10 and hangs in my kitchen. The original is about 3 feet by 5 feet and hangs in my mother’s home office. This picture exists many places; in my print, and the prints my siblings got, in the digital copy I just made of my print, in the file sharing system I use to share photos between my various devices, and of course, in her office. The painting itself, being a physical object only exists in one location.

But, pictures, just like the one I’ve taken, NEVER exist in only one spot. But, what if they only exist on my phone? Unless you have a magic phone that doesn’t connect to a mobile network, the pictures on your phone are in the cloud. But, what if they only exist on my home computer? Great, how did you get them there? Chances are you either took them on a cell phone (already covered) or you are backing up your PC to the cloud, or your computer is accessible from a network. Maybe not. Maybe you have a standalone PC that doesn’t connect to the internet or to a network and you only take pictures from a digital camera with no wifi abilities and you manually transfer your pictures through a USB cable.

Good for you. You are secure. For the rest of us, everything is online in one form or another. And I’m not trying to scare anyone. Because ALL of our stuff is online, there is a certain level of security through obscurity. If your name isn’t Jennifer Lawrence people are not going to be hacking you as aggressively. (If your name IS Jennifer Lawrence, I’m totally excited that you are reading my blog. . .and very, very sorry that your pictures got hacked.)

We will eventually know how the thief got access to the pictures. That leads to the second point: why? If you know that your digital life is hackable, why put this stuff out there? Dallas Mavericks owner, billionaire Mark Cuban is currently trying to scale back his digital footprint. Being Mark Cuban he created a company to help him: Cyber Dust.

I don’t take naked pictures of myself. So the idea of them leaking is not something I worry about. But, I have 13 kids. those kids each have their whole lives in front of them. I’ve tried to make sure that my online postings don’t touch them.

This won’t be the last time famous people have images or conversations they wanted kept private made public. And who knows, maybe this will inspire some people to remove information from the internet, or better yet, never store it there in the first place. But, realize everything is accessible eventually.

And that second data breach over the weekend? Home Depot, a store I spent way too much time and money at, was hacked, possibly for months, and exposed millions of credit card numbers. Like I said, everything is accessible at some point.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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