At the end of August 2014, a massive data breach changed the way the world views technology. The event, which featured a massive data dump of celebrity nude photos and videos acquired through the Apple cloud service iCloud, became known as “The Fappening”. Combining the word “fap”, an internet slang term for masturbation and the word “happening”, The Fappening served as a quick, hashtag-like title for the data dump and ultimately became a website destination for users to register and view the stolen photos. The event led to a global conversation about data, security, privacy and spectator’s morality.
In December 2015, The Fappening forum website was hacked and approximately 179,000 member accounts were compromised including information about their email addresses, usernames and passwords.
More About the Method and Release of the Celebrity Photos
Apple’s iCloud cloud data service’s method of automatically backing up photos taken on iOS devices served as the source of the data, as hackers targeted the service with a series of attacks ranging from brute-force password access to elaborate phishing scams. Though the data was famously dumped through the seedy anonymous online forum 4Chan and later collected on Reddit, analysts believe the photos had been circulating on the dark web and other unscrupulous channels for months. While the images were initially released by the anonymous curator in exchange for a Bitcoin payment, a combination of viral buzz and media attention quickly increased demand for the leaked photos, which in turn led to the increased availability.
The Affected Celebrities
The list of the women included in the data dump seemed to stretch on forever, featuring celebrities ranging from A-List actresses to athletes and pop divas. Some of the more notable names included in the archives of nude photos were Hollywood it-girl Jennifer Lawrence, famous swimsuit model Kate Upton and television superstar Kaley Cuoco. Olympic Gold Medalists such as McKayla Maroney and Hope Solo were also featured in the photo dump, with Maroney’s status as underage at the time the photos had been taken creating another crisis of morality for those who had viewed the leaked images.
The Question of Morality
While many would place the onus of blame on the initial hackers who collected the data and the online posters who publicly leaked it, the question quickly turned to the potential guilt of those who had viewed the images. Celebrities, media pundits and victims of the leaks alike shared a range of opinions about the morality of the hackers responsible for the leak and the everyday people who viewed them. Jennifer Lawrence famously stated that she believed that anyone who so much as viewed the photos were perpetuating a sexual offense, while model and actress Emily Ratajkowski offered an opposing position, stating that only those responsible for the leaks should be held accountable.
To this day, the question of privacy and the security of our technology rages on. Hacking and data breaches have become an everyday part of modern life, with regular citizens taking more steps to ensure their privacy than ever before. In March of 2016, a 36-year-old man from Lancaster, PA was sentenced to 18-months in prison for phishing scams that have been found to be related to The Fappening data breaches. If one thing is certain, it is that people, famous or otherwise, are thinking twice about the data or images they keep handy on their devices.