Jennifer Lawrence, failed by the Web


Jennifer Lawrence. CNN/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk

There but for the grace of celebrity go you.

Or maybe you've gone there already, after a sext went astray or an image sent in love ended up being used as revenge porn.

The leaking of private pictures -- some real, some possibly fake -- of undressed female celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence has been dubbed a "scandal."

Within that word there's the insidious suggestion that women shouldn't pose naked, that there's something untoward in their doing so. There isn't.

What's scandalous here is the apparent ease with which these photos were obtained and then disseminated. It signals a truth we've always known, but one we often choose to ignore.

In the digital world, anyone can get hold of things we deem very private.

To a large extent, it's our own fault.

For ease, we sacrificed privacy. We exchanged immediacy for any notion of security. We took one look at the gaudy possibilities of the Web, egged on by those who busily created because they could, not necessarily because they should, and we wanted it all.

The price (well, one of them) is that some dull youth with nothing better to do or think can creep into our most private messages, thoughts and forms of self-expression without so much as announcing himself.

It's as if anyone can now be the garbage collector who notices you've thrown your written diary in the trash and thinks he'll give it a read.

The difference is that, these days, it's the thought you're having right now that can be taken from you -- not merely by a a bored teenage boy, but by a thief or a government -- and examined for its usefulness to them, be it titillation, compensation or subjugation.

The brilliant movie "The Lives Of Others" showed in a vivid form what it is to have your most personal areas spied upon by the faceless.

It was set, though, in an East Germany that was the opposite of what we call ourselves: free.

Yet if banks, vast corporations and even governments can have their secrets hacked, what hope, what freedom is left for us?

It feels like a game that can never end. For every patch, every form of encryption, there will be a new method of breaching, a newer decoder to strip away our very essence.

We never imagined that the more of ourselves we put onto the Web -- a place where everything is recorded forever -- the less of our selves we would retain.

Did we bother even to think about whether we trusted the digital world? No. It gave us far too many opportunities to express or, more often, to impress.

Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities who have been the alleged victims of this plain theft trusted the electronics just as much as we do. They thought their private images, their private selves were safe.

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But they're not. And there is little sign that they will be, at least in any foreseeable future.

The Web is host to millions and millions of the paparazzi-minded. It's home to the hateful, the uncaring, the spiteful and the loathsome.

But where before they mostly heckled from the outside, now they're inside your home.

Because everyone lives on the Web, don't they?