Celebrity brings an interesting dichotomy. Actors, models, and politicians seek fame, recognition, and massive amounts of wealth, but once they've achieved those goals, they want us to 'respect their privacy' and for the 'snaparazzi' to leave them alone. They do not want their picture taken when they are seen on the street. They only want their picture taken if they receive a direct payment - not some journalist leeching off of their talent! They do not want to be bothered if you run into them in a restaraunt. If you want their autograph, you have to wait in line. Please worship the king and queen of Hollywood, but don't get your filthy peasant fingers on my velvet and ermine robes, say they.
Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton was photographed topless a few months ago while vacationing in Europe. British royals wanted to stop the presses on the pics. The same thing happened to Jennifer Aniston a few years ago when the paparazzi photographed her sunning topless in her own backyard. Now with visual-capable drones on the forefront - they have already made local news when Arlington, Texas police announced plans to use them - privacy will certainly become even more of an illusion and less of a certainty. A flying camera is a step ahead of a telefoto lens, so you better pull your curtains, people!
While Justin Bieber recently had a meltdown when the 'aggressive' English paparazzi confronted him on the street (wait...British people are more assertive than Americans? When did this happen?) and actors like George Clooney and the blonde from Grey's Anatomy famously want their privacy rights - we know that it has to be a tough trade sometimes to receive millions upon millions of dollars to stand in front of a camera and say stuff with full hair and makeup. Then, after all the best designers in the world give you free clothes, and if you're a Kardashian, companies pay you $10,000 to tweet something spelled incorrectly with poor grammar...
It is tough to be a celebrity, but come on, not THAT tough. Who wouldn't mind a few fans in exchange for a $5- or $15 million dollar house, Marc Jacobs designing your clothes, and custom Prada boots? What about your own private jet or helicopter to take you to work like Donald Trump, rather than commuting in rush hour traffic in your El Camino? The man who has gone bankrupt half a dozen time now sits upon a golden throne...even if it is in his bathroom.
But this time, along with unflattering photos of celebs, more than their relationship status, infidelity, or vacation plans was exposed: hackers were able to obtain Social Security Numbers, Date of Birth, Known Addresses, and access credit reports for a short list of ultra-rich celebrities including Beyonce, Britney Spears, Kanye West, and Tiger Woods.
The list also includes politicians like Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, former Governor Mitt Romney, First Lady Michelle Obama, and government officials including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Stacia Hylton, U.S. Marshall Director.
While it's no secret that Mrs. Obama lives at 1600 Penn, and Secretary Clinton did too when she was First Lady, celebrities may not want their exact address tweeted to the world, considering the number of stalkers and weirdies out there. But the likelihood of this information being used remains unknown.
This article is not about Michelle Obama's bangs, her surprise Oscar appearance, or what she thinks about Obama's drones potentially killing Americans on U.S. soil with no right to trial. It's not about her Let's Move! campaign that helps kids stay fit and lose weight. It's about her picture on a Web site apologizing for leaking her SSN. But it is unlikely that anyone would be able to impersonate her or buy things in her name - or is it?
I thought that moving from a $250,000 house to a $350,000 house was excessive for my ex brother-in-law who stopped paying child support for his two kids about six months ago. Then I learned from exposed.su that Arnold Schwarzanegger's monthly house payment is over $250,000. Sometimes celebrity excess puts our real world issues in an interesting perspective. For many Texans, $250,000 represents ten years of salary, if they haven't been laid off in the financial crisis, state budget cuts, or federal sequester.
Kim Kardashian has a $5.6 million dollar mortgage, and Beyonce has a credit line of $3 million. I thought my student loan debt was pretty big - until I saw Kim Kardashian's current car loan cost more than my college education. But after all, I studied philosophy and science, worked two or three jobs, and tutored underprivileged kids English grammar. Kim Kardashian made an infamous 'intimate' video with Brandy's brother, Ray J to start her path to fame. She deserves that Ferrari! She works hard for the money!
Everyone I have discussed this topic with has expressed mixed feelings. They do not have a lot of sympathy for wealthy celebrities getting pinged. They may not be so flippant, or they may be excessively more so, but a collective shrug is felt across the nation when bad things happen to good celebrities.
When police, FBI, and government officials can pull up our records even if we were suspected of a crime, or even if we were not - the average citizen does not seem to mind that Director Mueller was exposed on the site. They can see our records - so why can't we see theirs? I certainly don't want my information out there, but considering that the average person can be barred from income-generating jobs for having unpaid debt or student loans, and every employer wants not only a criminal history check, but a background, reference, college transcript, and credit report, it is hard to have sympathy for people who get rich from hiding nothing about themselves - and get paid for having an opulent on-camera wedding, or a show about how they have so much free time, they can go to Miami for 6 months a year and party.
Little was done by the bank, or the Arlington and Fort Worth police when my bank information was stolen and a criminal forged a check in my name, called the bank and tried to transfer my hard-earned money into his own accounts. When my University failed to protect my information and hackers broke into the student health center records, I barely received a notification letter that my Social Security number was theoretically leaked. When a supervisor forwarded my private health information in an e-mail to a student with the same name as his secretary, I never even received an apology. When a secretary wrote other employees about my health, she felt no repercussions. Other people and other organizations do not have a lot of respect for a person's privacy. And you have to be prepared to take the flack that's coming for standing up for your right to it when it's violated.
So what empathy should I, or the rest of us have for any of the celebrities whose information was leaked? When the average Jane or Joe has a privacy violation, no one seems to bat an eyelash. But then again, the celebrities entertain us and give us countless hours of mindless pleasure. It's hard not to be on their side. I cannot say I condone the actions that lead up to this information breach, but the banks break laws and rules all the time. The hackers, like the Dexter quote they reference, have their own sense of justice and fairness that sometimes skirts the law, and sometimes rings more of civil disobedience.
Having access to confidential information is a huge responsibility, to try and protect it and to keep it from being intentionally or unintentionally accessed. Being concerned about your own privacy is more than paranoia: it's good sense. For example, I recently worked at an employer where the former employee's payroll records were left in the notebook given to me. It had her date of birth, her social security number, address, and bank information. When I had to give the same information to the employer about me - I felt a cringe about how safe they would keep my details. I tried not to leave any copies lying around or saved on my computer. The only faith I have is that they won't intentionally use it for any purpose, but that faith is very tenuous.
When a colleague and I expressed concern that our employer was not following protocol about locking drawers and doors to protect records that contained SSNs, I was considered paranoid for wanting to follow protocol and policy. When I would not violate a policy about giving out my password - a password that accessed both my employee account and my student and financial records - my supervisor was irritated. Yet a random piece of paper with no identifying information sitting on a desk in a locked office can cause a different reaction at a different organization from a different supervisor. The truth is, we're all meandering in a forrest of confusing security protocols, and most of us can't see the forrest for the trees.
In today's social media world, unflattering photos from the past can come to haunt you. People can tag a photo they took without your consent of the one beer you've sipped since 2001 or the time your white blouse was accidentally see-through. Some people even upload immature pictures and giggle about it, thinking it won't effect future perceptions about you, but people might think you're sexy when in college. After all, it works for the Kardashians. But what's funny when you're 21 is less funny when you're 31 and looking for a job.
E-mails to your significant other, correspondence with your attorney, your bank, your credit card, your mom, and your dad are all being read right now by government officials. Your supervisor at work is reading your work e-mails. Every site you visit on the Web is being tracked if you don't have an ad blocker set up, and your ISP will release your Internet history to law enforcement without your consent or knowledge. Even without your willing participation or violating any laws or policies, your Facebook friends and colleagues can stalk and monitor your every move - if you log in or update. Your cell phone is capturing GPS intel about your trips to Target, Dollar Tree, the cancer doctor, and the liquor store.
While celebrities are in many ways easy targets - they already feed us all the information we never wanted to know about them - they also have an added layer of legal protection and public relations disambiguation. But with people willingly putting all the details of their lives online through social media, it is not difficult for hackers to social engineer their way into your accounts - that is if your job, school, or computer has not already given them the access they need.
Whatever their motive is or was, the hackers behind Exposed.su succeeded in getting some attention, after TMZ broke the story Monday, and other news organizations quickly followed suit.
An interesting mix of celebrities and politicians were accompanied by government law enforcement exposed on the site. In the future, I expect this will be a feature in People, ET, TMZ, and the like "Celebrities are real too! They go to Target and buy bananas! They pay their bills! Check out Extra's drone feed of Rodeo Drive shopaholics!"
Exposed.su hackers obtained records for: Kim Kardashian, Joe Biden, Robert Mueller, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Charlie Beck, Mel Gibson, Ashton Kutcher, Jay Z, Beyonce, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Sarah Palin, Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzanegger, Al Gore, Kanye West, Kris Jenner, Stacia Hylton, Mitt Romney, Tiger Woods