2014: The year online privacy became mainstream

  • Vishakha Saxena, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 17, 2015 19:00 IST

"Anybody who looked at those pictures, you're perpetuating a sexual offence. You should cower with shame."

Jennifer Lawrence's

powerful interview to Vanity Fair

came after personal pictures of many celebrities, including her own, were posted on the controversial imageboard 4chan. These images, accessed after a targeted iCloud hack, were later fervently shared on other platforms like Reddit and Imgur.

With each new leak, discussions on privacy gathered pace.

Apple was criticised for not using the two-factor authentication system and for its Photo Stream feature which uploads photos taken with an iOS device to iCloud servers automatically.

Apart from the leaked pictures, experts expressed concerns on how data stored on the hacked phones, including calendars, address book, call logs and text messages were also likely stolen.

Soon, Apple re-introduced its twin-verification system.

But the internet's worst nightmate didn't end there. As the world tried to grapple with the enormity of the issue, out came another big blow: Personal information of Sony Pictures Entertainment's (SPE) employees and their dependents was hacked by a group that referring to itself as "Guardians of Peace" or "GOP".

E-mails between employees, information about salaries, copies of unreleased Sony films, and other critical information was also accessed and released. The hack showed that none of our data was safe anymore.

"I'm going to ignore stories containing private content from the Sony Hack. No different than looking at pictures from iCloud celebrity hack," tweeted a user, Howard Lerman.

Imagine having to change every single password you have ever used in life! Imagine knowing that all your personal information is out there in the open, accessible to anyone and can be used it in whatever way the hackers wanted.

This year's debate on privacy, or the lack of it, is a throwback to the early 2000s when Facebook was accused of being the breeding ground of morphed images meant to harass victims. The popular social-networking site has always struggled with privacy laws.

Even as the criticism of its privacy settings continued, it was recently reported that Facebook had been manipulating user timelines. Its 'Mood Experiment' was severely criticised and, according to a report by American magazine The Atlantic, was probably illegal.

Further, last year's spying revelations involving US' National Security Agency (NSA), and the rise of Edward Snowden, were also critical to the privacy debate this year. The involvement of can't-do-withouts like Google and Facebook made us wonder if our information was being stored and shared without our permission.

In light of such history, the leaked celebrity images and the Sony attack, believed to be North Korea's retaliation to American political comedy film The Interview, are a grim reminder of how ignoring privacy concerns for so long has made us so vulnerable to cyber terrorism.

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