The naked truth about the risk of taking nude selfies

Come on, famous people. Simply keeping your clothes on solves the problem

The nude celebrity photo iPhone hack that was all over the news this week certainly raises some serious questions.

Like, are there really people who take nude selfies?

And of even greater perplexity: are there really celebrities who do this? And more astonishingly: celebrities who then store them online?

I suppose none of these things really matters so long as you don’t care if, through accident or nefarious intent, your personal accoutrements are, er, exposed.

And yes, I did see the tweets sailing around that said blaming people for 1) taking such pictures and 2) having them hacked and revealed to the world, is unfair and is like blaming people who use credit cards and online banking when they become the victim of financial hacks.

Except it isn’t quite the same, is it? We’re talking about the difference between financial management, a bland but critical working element in life, and reputational management, a far more ephemeral concern but of great consequence to the person involved.

On one side, you have the risk of financial exposure. Your monetary transactions are now routinely managed and stored in digital or electronic format. It would be hard for anyone to opt out of that system these days, short of stuffing cash into a mattress.

Personal exposure

On the other, you have personal exposure, quite literally. But that’s (at least in the case at hand) entirely a choice of the individual, as endless warnings against posting your foolish drunk party snaps on

Facebook

should have made clear.

The rules are simple: if you don’t want to risk having your bare necessities doing the rounds, then be careful what you or others record.

Sometimes pictures and videos are made without a person’s consent or knowledge, and making such material public – as has happened to the extreme distress of such victims – is a criminal violation and repugnant.

Hacking into somebody’s personal storage account or smartphone or PC to take images and recordings is wrong, deeply wrong.

But there is a difference when you’re taking such images yourself, of yourself, and keeping them, well, anywhere – especially if you’re a public figure. That is, there is a difference if it really matters to you that they are never revealed.

Come on, celebs: get a clue.

Don’t create that digital image trail if you want to ensure to the best of your ability that your upholstery never goes on view without your consent. Unless you don’t care.

And maybe none of those who have been exposed do care. I sure don’t know. I didn’t even recognise the names of any of the hacked celebs; that’s how out of the loop I am. But I think most of us with working braincells would be cautious about taking pictures of ourselves starkers if we were worried about them getting into a wider domain, as it is always a risk for the images to end up embarrassingly public.

Not a cautionary tale

However, this is not a digital-age cautionary tale about the risk inherent in our era of easily accessed and duplicatable content and the social media platforms on which to swiftly share it. No, not at all.

Remember Rob Lowe? Those of a certain vintage might recall the Hollywood actor’s (in)famous sex tape, on glorious analogue VHS, that popped up in 1988 (and became one of the first commercially available celebrity sex tapes, helping to spur the eventual triumph of the lower- cost VHS tape format over the technologically superior Betamax).

That tape, and the discussion of it, seemed to be everywhere at the time. For a long while, Lowe's reputation suffered due to its publication. Eventually, life moved on and Lowe could even lampoon himself and the tapes on the comedy show Saturday Night Live. But one suspects he wished many a time that he'd never pressed the record button in the first place.

More to the point here: the lack of the world wide web, Twitter and blogs in the late 1980s did not prevent the Lowe tape going, as we would say in the internet age, viral (though the term wasn’t used back then).

I’m not saying it’s ever right for someone to hack into somebody’s personal pictures or any other account, and it is definitely wrong to then share them without the person’s consent.

But come on, famous people. Simply keeping your clothes on solves the problem. The nude selfie is a personal choice. If you cannot resist recording your bits and bobs, do so at least under the caution that many others will enjoy looking at them if your accounts are hacked.

If you don’t want to risk putting them out there, then tuck them back inside.