There’s one thing that an Oscars award will not do: protect you from the invasion of privacy online.

That is what Jennifer Lawrence probably learned the past few days as nude photos of her and a couple of other celebrities got leaked online. Initially uploaded on 4chan, the leaked photos found their way to Reddit.

That’s when the world started noticing.

All the major news outlets covered it. One by one, the affected celebrities spoke out against this invasion of privacy. If you want a good summary of this issue, read this piece by Alan Duke at CNN.com.

Jennifer Lawrence

This post is a bit long. Clocking in at more than 1,300++ words, it’s an important issue for most of us yuppies, who are very connected to the Internet and other cloud-based services.

Victoria Justice (singer-songwriter) admitted that she may have been faced with a serious violation of privacy.

Mary E. Winstead (who starred in Final Destination 3, Death Proof, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World) also tweeted:

Even if you’re not a celebrity but you like fiddling with your Android or Windows phone, or iPhone, here are five lessons we should learn from this incident.

Personal privacy is no longer as personal and as private as it used to be.

Cloud storage is all the rage these days. You can store your documents online and retrieve them anywhere with any device you may have. Smartphones even have auto-backup features that uploads your photos to these cloud storage services automatically.

Here’s the catch, cloud storage isn’t as safe and secure as they are touted to be. They may have several loopholes and flaws that could be exploited by determined hackers.

How difficult would it be to guess your favorite movies, the name of your pet, the name of your brothers and sisters, or your most hated brand of ice cream?

How about intimate stuff like your birthday, your Social Security number, or even your address?

Stop reading right now and go to your Facebook timeline or your Tweets.

Strangers have amazingly high access to personal information that used to be private, before the Age of Facebook. Remember, these days, personal privacy is no longer as personal and no longer as private.

Don’t take nude photos and videos.

Why would anybody want to take nude photos or record themselves while making love?

To quote the article from CNN:

Why would celebrities have nude photos of themselves on their cell phones?

There may not be one answer for this, but distance from love interests could be a major factor. Actors spend months away from spouses and lovers while making movies. Musicians tour the world for months. Sexting can become a substitute for intimacy when a relationship goes long distance.

Of course, some bathroom mirror selfies may be snapped and kept as a way to measure progress on a diet or to assess the need for a tummy tuck or update with the plastic surgeon.

Other celebs, however, have enjoyed career boosts when supposedly inadvertent leaks of nude photos or videos have gone viral. Ask Kim Kardashian about that. Her career highlight was as Paris Hilton’s personal assistant before the world discovered her sex tape.
Another way nude photos might find their way onto a celebrity’s cell phone is just plain naiveté. Maybe they don’t realize images on their iPhones are automatically backed up by iCloud, or perhaps they thought iCloud was a safe place for their data.

In a world where privacy isn’t invaded or compromised, taking nude selfies or sex videos for private consumption may not be as problematic as they are right now. But we’re in the real world where phones and laptops get lost or stolen. Or you could leave your account logged on in a computer shop. Worse, one of your BFF’s suddenly holds a grudge against you and decides to leak some sensitive files to the internet.

We should learn from the experiences of Wally Bayola, Chito Miranda, and Hayden Kho to name a few. Arguably, the sharing of nude selfies between lovers may be acceptable and could be one way to deal with long distance relationship. But given the unsafe and unsecure nature of the Web, it is extremely prudent not to take such photos or videos.

Delete doesn’t really mean delete.

If you know a little bit about computers and hard drives, you know that the files you delete aren’t really deleted until the hard drive it is stored on could be rewritten several times.

When my laptop’s hard drive died last year, I used Photorec and Recuva to recover 4GB worth of pictures. I am not a hardcore techie by the way. I’m pretty sure that hackers can use even more powerful software to scour the Internet and private accounts for deleted photos of targeted persons. There’s a name for that software now, it’s called Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker, which is used by government intelligence agencies.

Here’s a tweet from Mary E Winstead if you’re not convinced:

Since delete doesn’t really mean delete, it would be prudent to NOT take any nude photos or steamy videos at all! These things can remain online even after you and I are long gone.

The scary thing is, most determined hackers can find a way to figure out personal details through the bits and pieces that we share on social networks. We need to take extra measures to protect our privacy online. Nobody else would do it for us.

Turn off Auto-Upload and Auto-sync in your Smartphone.

If you just can’t help it and you absolutely have to take nude photos or steamy videos (for whatever acceptable reasons you may have), then please turn off the Auto-Upload and Auto-sync features of your smartphone.

In case you lose your phone, there’s a good chance that a dumb thief automatically uploads his or her selfies on your Facebook account, then you can trace them and have them arrested. But the negatives far outweigh the benefits of such a practice so please turn off the auto-load and auto-sync in your smartphone.

Consider going off the grid from time to time.

We hear of people going on social media fast from time to time. Others even use the term detox, as if social media were a toxic substance that’s poisoning our social lives.

That’s probably true.

The Internet knows so much about us, it’s scary. George Orwell’s classic 1984 novel seems to be coming true: “Big Brother is watching you.” And Big Brother can do that now with all the online technologies we willingly and openly use.

Google Maps know every single place you went to–if you’re using data and you’re logged in to their services. Check out this article to show you how much Google Maps about your whereabouts and how you can turn it off. Foursquare and Facebook also lets you Check-in to places.

Conclusion

While these technologies help make our lives easier, they also pose some dangers, especially in terms of keeping and securing confidential information. Anybody has the right to take selfies (even nude ones) but given the dangers of hacking and online security, it is infinitely better not to.

If you cannot keep the door closed, you might as well make sure that the thief can’t steal anything of value inside the unsecure house.

What other lessons can we learn from this high profile case of invasion of privacy?