Hacked celebrities were “stupid”, says incoming EU digital economy and society chief

Günther Oettinger, the guy who’s set to become Europe’s new “digital economy and society” chief, had a confirmation hearing late Monday and while the process seemed to go smoothly, he said something that should set off alarm bells.

While talking about digital risks and opportunities, Oettinger chose to bring up the recent hacking of various celebrities’ naked selfies, which appear to have been stolen from cloud storage services such as [company]Apple[/company]’s iCloud.

Oettinger spoke in German throughout the hearing, but here’s Euractiv’s translation of his “semi-serious” take on this incident:

It simply cannot be, that complaints are rising over the naked photos of celebrities who took ‘selfies’… [Whoever] is stupid enough to put a naked photo of themselves on the internet, cannot expect us to protect them.

For a start, it’s not like these celebrities put naked pictures of themselves on [company]Twitter[/company]. They used a cloud storage system that, yes, is “on the internet”, but that is a widely-used service promising security and privacy to those that use it. Someone entered this vault illegally. These celebrities were not exhibitionists; they were victims of data robbery. Chances are, they didn’t even know they were syncing their phone-stored data to “the internet” at all.

What’s more, this could – and does – happen to regular people too. I strongly recommend that Oettinger read this great post by “SwiftOnSecurity” to see what we’re talking about here. Regular people, celebrities included, get hacked. There are many ways for this to happen, and many motivations for doing so. Regular people are not tech-savvy, they have neither the time nor the inclination to become tech-savvy, and they should not be punished for this.

Nobody’s expecting EU commissioners to be proficient in the intricacies of cryptography UX design, but Europeans should expect them to: a) broadly understand how regular people use technology; and b) be on the side of theft victims, rather than sneering at them for using what is very mainstream tech.

Not a good start, Oettinger, not a good start at all.

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P.S. – Trade commissioner-designate Cecilia Malmström also had her confirmation hearing on Monday, and she was repeatedly asked about the allegations that she helped to undermine Europe’s new privacy laws by secretly working with the U.S. during their formulation. She responded angrily, denouncing the claims as “misconceptions and lies” and referring to the smoking-gun email (a U.S. Department of Commerce internal email) as both “lies” and a “leak”. Access, the digital rights group that retrieved the email through a U.S. freedom-of-information request, has now written an open letter to Malmström asking whether she is “accusing Access or the U.S. Department of Commerce of having falsified a document.”