Skip to main content

Actress Jennifer Lawrence smiles on the red carpet at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 12, 2014. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters

The hacking of female celebrities' private photos and the gleeful sharing of the photos online are criminal and downright perverse. It's prurient interest gone wild. But for all the considerable indignity Jennifer Lawrence and others have suffered, the episode points to a more troubling truth about our times: that between governments and their spy agencies, the constant data-mining of our personal information by social media companies and the perpetual risk of digital identity theft by hackers, our personal lives have never been under greater siege. You can feel sorry for the intrusion the celebrities have suffered, or you can cynically say, "Tough luck, that's what you get for being famous." But what you really ought to be thinking is, "How do I keep this from happening to me?"

Because it can. Smartphones, digital photography and social media are ubiquitous, yet to a large degree people are unaware of just how much they risk by putting even basic personal information online – let alone recording every aspect of their lives on smartphones that are backed up to vulnerable cloud servers. The fact that the most common stolen passwords, according to one security software manufacturer, are "123456" and "password" is fairly convincing evidence that many people just don't get it.

Even those wary enough to manage their passwords intelligently probably haven't quite digested the fact that hackers are looking 24/7 for weaknesses in the vaults of supposedly secure data – everything from credit card info to medical records to regrettable selfies that can be exploited for monetary gain, or merely for the sadistic pleasure of embarrassing someone.

Story continues below advertisement

When it's not criminals going at it, it's social media giants like Facebook and Google analyzing your photos, tracking your whereabouts and looking at your posts in order to find the most efficient way to sell you to an advertiser. Your smartphone knows where you are and everywhere you've been. You may be tracked by security cameras. Your data and metadata could be of interest to the National Security Agency in the U.S. and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) in this country.

This is our Faustian bargain with the digital age. The Internet and new communications technologies have improved our lives in so many ways. But they have also taken our lives and recorded them in ways we are not always aware of, and might not always want. We can and do demand that governments and corporations take the proper measures to protect us. But no longer can anyone assume, or possibly even expect, to be spared from some kind of breach. Be careful out there.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter