Privacy for everybody

by RimaAlha on March 15, 2015 - 6:50pm

Several months ago, nude celebrity pictures spread across the internet without the consent of their owners. Their publication opened a debate about privacy and civil liberties. In fact, these images could be found on several websites such as Reddit and 4Chan. These social networks permit their users to police themselves and moderators are used to remove flagged content. However, these companies are blamed for their lack of action concerning unlawful publications. Everything having to do with privacy is talked about now, not only the episode of nude celebrity pictures. Robin William’s daughter has been attacked on Twitter after her father’s death and videos of journalists’ beheadings were uploaded on YouTube by ISIS. In the end, maybe YouTube, Twitter and others will be more proactive (Twitter has already tried some changes), but companies showed they cannot be counted on to be “arbiters of speech” reminded Jillian C. York, director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A few years ago, the debate of privacy erupted all around the world. We started blaming the FBI and any other type of secret agency of spying on us. However, we now permit ourselves to invade the privacy of celebrities “because they are celebrities”, which denies them the right to have a personal life outside of work. I believe that hypocrisy is present in this problem and that their rights should be respected like we demand ours to be. Also, the uploaded beheadings of journalists by ISIS and their sharing across the Internet should make us question our own values. Voyeurism, judgment and criticism are encouraged on websites such as Twitter and YouTube. Moderators should, in my opinion, always delete contents if someone’s privacy is not respected. Actually, as Mr. Jillian C. Work said, companies cannot be trusted: more reinforced laws should be put in place to avoid scandals.

We can personally help in many ways. EPIC (electronic privacy information center) is an independent non-profit research center working to “protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values, and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet” ( They have multiple events to inform people about the issue they are defending and to attract them to join the cause. A conference presently happening (March 12-13th) is “Surveillance, Privacy and Transnational Relations in the Digital Era” in Belgium. To support EPIC, one can give money on their websites. Donations helps to maintain the website, publish books, train law students about privacy, organize privacy campaigns, etc.


Isaac, Mike. "Nude Photos of Jennifer Lawrence Are Latest Front in Online Privacy Debate." The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <


First of all, thank you for your insights. The issue of personal privacy in social media is a rising problem, and as you pointed out, there are many groups promoting and protecting Net neutrality.
However, I believe that the issue of privacy is a double-edged sword, and it is not such a clear-cut problem with an easy solution. Of course, the example you used about celebrities' nude pictures being leaked, this is a violation of their personal privacy which was not meant to be shared with the general public. I agree that this kind of behaviour should never be encouraged and measures should be taken from such social media sites to prevent these type of events from reoccuring.
Further, I wanted to get back to your point regarding the use of violent images by journalists. Even though the images of beheaded journalists may contain excessive violence that might make certain parts if the population uncomfortable, it is undeniably a figment of the reality we are living today. On one hand, this image can be sensationalized and blown out of proportion, but on the other hand, this image can be used as a beacon to inform more people about the harsh and uncomfortable realities that exist elsewhere in the world. Thus, how does this tie with freedom of expression and democratic values? Do journalists have the duty to portray the reality through images, no matter how grim it is?
I do not have an answer, but I believe that to a certain extent, the media has to serve in educating and informing the public in what is happening in our present world. It is for us to establish a moral boundary that can do all this, while maintaining respect for the greatest number of people.

I would have to agree with your perceptions over the matters of online privacy and that you have chosen an interesting subject to talk about. You have brought to light the fact that journalists tend to invade celebrities’ personal affairs through your stated examples. So, it is indeed unwise of the media to defy one’s privacy and civil rights.

On another point of view, while the media diffuses images that many believe of a need to apply censorship issues, we can’t deny that it is still framing the reality. It is through this medium that we are informed of the events on a global scale. We need to assume that journalists are stuck to the moral etiquette of telling the truth to the population.
Moreover, they also have the obligation to keep identities confidential in serious cases. For instance, you might find an article about a person who had been sexually assaulted by another person: by laws, the author will not reveal the identity of the victim. They maintain some respect for the victim, otherwise known as the community. As for the organisations, their ideals can be morally justified by their intentions of protecting one’s privacy and freedom of speech. It is a belief based upon the idea of achieving the greater good for the community and limiting the most harm possible, which I consider that journalists follow to an extent. Therefore, media still possess a certain morality margin, which you claim of being violated.

In my opinion, I would look deeper into this subject and say that what matters more is the fact that journalists tend to report increasingly more about useless information, such as the example of the leaked nude pictures. In the end, this idea is made up of my own opinion. Thus, rationally-speaking, it is still debatable.

This is a very good article; you brought up an interesting subject for debate: how much should moderators censor in order to be ethical?
There are two ways to answer this question. First, one could argue, from a teleological perspective, that a moderator must take into account the consequences that the content that is presented would have on the public. From this perspective, censorship from the moderators is not only justified, but ethically mandatory, since some content might cause privacy issues or be too violent to be shown (which might affect the public emotionally), both of which might cause more harm than benefit. That is the point of view you seem to have chosen.
However, you must keep in mind that one could justify the diffusion of potentially harmful content (the violent images and not the nude pictures) using a deontological framework. Indeed, the media in general have a duty to depict the world accurately and, since violence is a part of our world, moderators have no reason to censor it. Also, censoring the expression of users (on such topics as violent conflicts in the world) can be said to be unethical from a deontological perspective if we value free speech as a universal human right. In that case, mediators should not be allowed to repress the expression of users, regardless of how much the audience might be shocked (as long as the intent of the user is not to harm, but to express himself).
That having been said, I still agree that the teleological framework suits this issue the best, even though it is practically impossible to implement.