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Celebrity Nude Photo Hackings Put a Spotlight on Internet Crimes

The recent leak of intimate photos of young female celebrities, including Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence and Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton, has shocked the online community. Many of the released photos were believed by to have been deleted, but still somehow ended up being distributed throughout the internet. This recent photo leak has raised many different concerns about internet crimes and privacy laws. The fact that the photos were deleted and subsequently still accessible via the hacking of Apple iCloud accounts has many people concerned about the supposed security of online cloud storage systems.

The laws are murky about the posting of nude and other intimate photos without the subject of that photo’s consent. In fact, Senate Bill 532, which was supposed to make it a crime to disclose sexually explicit images of an identifiable person, gained traction in Florida at the beginning of 2014, only to falter later on in the Florida House of Representatives. Some states have laws in place to protect victims from the malicious posting of intimate and nude photos. However, such “revenge porn laws,” as they have been dubbed, have not been passed by all states, and this includes Florida. As a result, prosecution alleging the posting of an intimate photo will more than likely need to be brought under the federal and state laws that address internet crimes and privacy violations.

Federal Law and Intimate Photo Postings

 The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) makes it a federal crime to commit the following acts when using a protected computer:

  • Compromising the confidentiality of an organization or person;
  • Trespassing on government computers and activities;
  • Obtaining protected national security information;
  • Damaging a computer or the information contained on the computer;
  • Trafficking in online account passwords;
  • Accessing a computer to defraud or to obtain value; and
  • Attempting to commit any of the above enumerated crimes.

Under the CFAA a protected computer is technically any computer used by a financial institution or a computer that is used in foreign or interstate commerce or communication, including computers located outside of the U.S. Though this definition may not seem to apply to private computers, in reality the CFAA has been applied to private computers as well as cellphones because of these devices’ ability to connect to the internet, allowing the users to easily participate in foreign or interstate communication and/or commerce.

The Current Celebrity Hackings and Federal Law

 Historically, when hackers are prosecuted for posting intimate photos without the subject’s consent, typically they are prosecuted not because of the graphic/compromising content in the photo. Instead they are busted under the CFAA because they obtained the photos illegally by hacking into computers, and/or fraudulently represented themselves to be another person through the use of stolen passwords in order obtain the photo. Breaking into other people’s email and other internet accounts to obtain intimate photos is a violation of the CFAA, as well as of identity theft laws. Furthermore, if the subject of the photo can be proven to have been a minor at the time the photo was taken, the accused can also be found guilty of distributing child pornography, which is also prohibited under state and federal laws. Prosecution may also occur if the accused used or threatened to use the posted photo in order to extort and/or humiliate the subject of the photo.

Regarding the current celebrity photo hackings, the FBI has gotten involved in the matter, partially because of the fact that it is believed that the photos were gained through the hacking of Apple iCloud accounts. The ability to compromise such complex computer systems presents a real threat to the U.S. public as a whole, and thus is an important matter for the federal government to investigate. Furthermore, given the ages of some of the subjects of the hacked photos, as well as the fact that many of the photos are not that current, the issue brings up concerns of child pornography law violations.

If you need top notch criminal defense for an internet crime, contact Miami criminal attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in South Florida. We are happy to provide you with a consultation and advise you on the best course of action regarding your case.

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