The Internet is buzzing tonight with news that hundreds of celebrity nude photos have been leaked, reportedly from a hacker who accessed Apple iCloud accounts. But what responsibility, if any, does the company bear in this massive security breach?
What we know at this time is that an anonymous user began posting sets of images on the forum site 4chan earlier today, attempting to solicit payments via untraceable Bitcoin. The pictures quickly spread to image sharing site Imgur and social news portal Reddit, gaining momentum with each additional share.
The photos appear to include nude and semi-nude depictions of celebrities like Aubrey Plaza, Hope Solo and Kate Upton. Many of the pictures are "selfies" or self-shot images, using a camera phone. In the case where a mirror is visible, many of the phones do appear to be iPhones, but not all of them are. Several comments have pointed out Android phones in some the images, raising questions of how likely it is that someone without an iPhone would put nude images into their iCloud stream.
Are the photos real? Several celebs, like Ariana Grande, are outright denying the authenticity of the pictures. Others, like Jennifer Lawrence, seem to have confirmed their photos are real. The original leaker claimed to have captured more than 60 images of the Oscar-winning actress. Lawrence's representatives told TMZ: ""This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence."
Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton initially posted the nude images on his site, but then replaced them with censored versions. After a while, he pulled the photos entirely.
"I acted in haste just to get the post up and didn't really think things through. I'm sorry," Perez said. "Upon further reflection and just sitting with my actions, I don't feel comfortable even keeping the censored photos up. I am removing them."
The consequences for whoever is responsible could be extremely serious. A breach of several celebrity email accounts, including Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and Mila Kunis, earned a Florida man a 10-year prison sentence in 2012.
Apple has, at this moment, refused to comment publicly on the purported iCloud leak.