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Confront the Cloud with caution

The latest celebrity nude photo leak has once again thrown into question what expectations of privacy one can reasonably maintain in the digital age.

The short answer: none.

However, all hope is not yet lost for those who wish to preserve the details of their personal lives, for in defense of privacy rises the virtue of discretion.

Discretion ultimately derives from awareness. Nobody deserves to have his or her body exposed to an unintended audience, but in reality, use of the Internet comes with certain hazards that we often forget.

Acknowledging these risks does not restrict a person from participating in these activities, but instead enables him or her to take appropriate precautions. Labels on hair dryers warn the user about possible electrocution should it come in contact with water. Reading the warning won’t make you throw away the hair dryer; it will allow you to use the product safely.

The Internet may not come with a printed label, but most of us are familiar by now with the idea that nothing posted online ever fully disappears. Unless you’re like Jennifer Lawrence, whose personal details are of monetary significance to strangers hoping to sell them to gossip magazines, you may never be a hacker’s specific target. But massive data leaks happen regularly; the Cloud is not a foolproof method of hiding things you don’t want people to see. Human persistence and ingenuity ensure that no security system will ever exist for long before being dismantled.

Keeping privacy issues in active debate holds technology companies accountable for developing better security systems, but we can do more than raise public outcry to ensure that we are not victims of the next leak, namely, by exercising discretion.

If it is of huge concern that others not see you naked, for example, do not let your nude photos come in contact with the Internet, where anyone with the technical skill can access them. You don’t have to censor yourself; take as many as you want. Just store them on a computer with absolutely no Internet connectivity. Or, better yet, take a Polaroid.

Rather than seeing it as an imposition, view discretion as a weapon that cuts a person loose from dependency on a questionable security system. Of course, it’s not unreasonable to trust a locked safe to guard your valuables, nor is it unreasonable to be outraged when the safe fails to do its job. And when it happens, yes, you can call the police and hope they catch the thief, or try to induce the company to improve the security of its products. But remember, the best vault is often just a very good hiding place.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

September 3, 2014

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The Miami Hurricane


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