Actress Jennifer Lawrence was in the news a few weeks ago when nude photos of her were released online. More recently, Los Angeles artist XVALA announced he would use some of the photos in his upcoming exhibit titled, “No Delete,” at Cory Allen Contemporary Art’s The Showroom in St. Petersburg, Florida next month. Defending himself against the critics XVALA said, “We share our secrets with technology. And when we do, our privacy becomes accessible to others.”
Though he has since decided not to use the photos, critics are still angry and believe XVALA was never justified in using Lawrence’s pictures. These critics frame Lawrence as the victim, placing all the blame on the hacker and any subsequent person who distributes her photos. Though I recognize Lawrence was in fact a victim, she is not as blameless as the media is making her out to be. I’ve written plenty before on the lack, or rather impossibility, of privacy with technology; and that does not mean just on the internet. Every picture someone takes and every text they send is documented, archived and thus retrievable. You may trust the person on the other end of a sexual text message, but you cannot trust technology; and Lawrence, though perhaps without realizing the consequences, mistakenly trusted technology.
When we use our computers or phones we don’t necessarily surrender our constitutional rights, but we do surrender much of our privacy. Currently, the US government can legally track our use of the internet and retrieve our emails, texts and other messages. They even have the capability to get inside a computer’s webcam; and that’s just what we allow them to do. Though it is unlikely that cybersecurity will harm anyone but the terrorists it is meant for, imagine what non-government officials can do illegally with technology. It is of the utmost importance that we all recognize the danger of sending personal messages and pictures through our phones or computers. No matter how much we believe they will never be seen, there is always a possibility; and this sort of humiliation is not limited to celebrities, since hackers do not discriminate.
To clarify, I am not shaming Lawrence’s body or her decision to take nude photos of herself. I have no opinion about her reasons for taking the photos; I only want to use her story to underline the epidemic in society of misusing technology and consequentially suffering for it. Young adults and some older adults continue to use technology for private endeavors, and then claim themselves as victims when they are exposed. Well, you aren’t a victim — at least not of the hacker; you are a victim of a society in which sex and technology are glorified, and therefore are often used concurrently. Only by stopping ourselves from sending personal media through public platforms can we actually protect ourselves from the possibility of being hacked.
Once a picture is public domain, which includes the internet, it can be used for anything, within legal limits. Therefore I believe XVALA is justified in his use of the pictures, although I do not think it is a decent thing to do. Explaining the message behind his exhibit, he said that it is not to degrade the celebrities but more to demonstrate “how we [have] exploited ourselves” as a society. I hope that if there is one thing you take away from his exhibit, it is to be more careful with technology, because you never know who may end up stealing your personal content — or who might end up putting it in an art gallery.
Meredith Berger is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.