In the midst of the latest salacious celebrity news excitement, there has been an array of tut-tutting and they-should-know-better-ing in the direction of Apple and their CEO Tim Cook.
Unsurprisingly, having undertaken and extensive internal investigation into the leaking of nude photos from a bunch of celebs, Apple have concluded that Apple did nothing wrong and it was simply a case of hackers doing what they do best…guessing first pet’s and mother’s maiden names to gain access to the accounts of those least likely to worry about putting nudey pictures of themselves into the cloud for safe keeping.
Whilst Cook et al appear not specifically at fault here, and the Daily Mail-esque clamour for a tearful apology feels unwarranted, there are many parts of this episode that should be a wake-up call – not only for all internet users who back-up to the cloud, but also for Apple and other businesses making commercial hay in the cloud.
Firstly, the cloud has kind of crept up on many people, without them every really understanding what it is, how it works, or what it means for them. Yes the ability to access that Nigerian funk jazz classic on mp3 (just me?) from anywhere on any device is amazingly convenient and just plain magic. But the action of relinquishing overall control of that file is what is really important. It lives somewhere else, out of your reach, and within reach of those who’s disposition it is to hack and steal what’s not theirs.
Secondly, as has been noted recently with various ‘right to be forgotten’ cases – not yet a universal human right, but watch this space – it’s pretty hard to get stuff that’s online , not-online. The traces of our digital lives live long and reach far and wide. Once it’s out there, it’s pretty difficult to get it back. Digital media’s great strength is its ability to replicate itself, for many copies to exist at one time, but there are far reaching consequences for ones privacy and copyright (just ask the music industry).
And finally, whilst the buck doesn’t stop with a weakness in Apple’s hacker defences, there is an interesting argument to be made about how much we (and by proxy, they) value privacy. Banks have made tremendous strides to protect our money online; we receive little bits of technology through the post, we have our debit cards infuriatingly blocked at the merest hint of a deviation from normal activity, and we’re often invited to attend branches in-person (old school) to prove we actually exist.
But should not Apple, and Facebook, Google etc. for that matter, be taking similar steps? Our lives are increasingly online, personal moments, video snippets, private exchanges between loved ones…what price those memories, that data? If our private data can’t be protected, and our privacy is continually under threat, then surely we can’t go on just offering them up for safe keeping and public sharing.
We’ll just stop posting. We’ll stop sharing. We’ll stop and accessing free platforms in exchange for handing over personal information, and the data about us will slowly become less and less valuable. Big data becomes well, a lot smaller.
And what becomes of Facebook and Google and Apple then?