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What does the hack of the celebrity nude selfies mean for CIOs?

What is there for CIOs to learn from the hack of the celebrity nude selfies and the global exposure of these private naked images? I wish I knew. In this week’s Searchlight news roundup, Associate Site Editor Francesca Sales interviews one business expert who advises CIOs and their companies to strike while public outrage is high (if not universal). They should use this media moment to shake up a cloud culture that puts expediency before data security.

That means putting pressure on Apple and other cloud companies to do a better job of protecting customer data. “It will take companies, especially the bigger ones that have large purchasing power, to say, ‘If you don’t get this fixed, we will not use your products and services,'” Kevin Paul Scott told Sales. Who knows? The ugly publicity around this ugly event might actually put some teeth into the threat of a boycott.

The celebrity nude selfie hack also offers CIOs a not-to-be-squandered opportunity to sell employees on the value of information security, Scott said. “When you’re casting vision internally,” he advises, “you have to connect things that you’re asking employees to do with something bigger.” (What could be bigger than, oh never mind.) The incident is without question an object lesson in the value of making up better passwords. And, now it’s not just the old CI-“No” saying so but the likes of Jennifer Lawrence wishing so. Data privacy takes vigilance in the digital age. Between the data we generate and the eyes this data is intended for is the world wide web. That goes for both intimate photos and sensitive corporate data.


So there you have two teachable moments to come out of this online exploitation. Heck, I’d suggest there’s even a third corporate campaign worth waging. If the multi-million dollar business of stealing, trading and selling intimate celebrity digital images tells us nothing else, it’s that certain kinds of digital information are extremely valuable — e.g. images of the beautiful bodies of famous females. It is the responsibility of CIOs and the other chiefs in charge — and their boards of directors — to make it explicit to their employees which types of corporate information are extremely valuable (or embarrassing if leaked), as well as to take the time to spell out the precautions required to protect that information. (Read our stories on the fledgling field of Infonomics — the economics of information — here and here for more on valuing information.)

Virtual reality

To be honest, however, I suspect the significance of this high profile breach for CIOs and for their businesses may turn out to be less about “cloud culture” than it is about culture, period. In particular, the incident indicates the complex relationship a younger demographic, my adult children included, has with technology — a nuanced relationship that most of us non-digital natives can’t begin to understand.

The actors involved in this high-profile breach point up just how confusing and mysterious this relationship is. They understand of course that their physical embodiment is a big part of their worth — a commodity to be showcased in performances, exhibited on Red Carpets, used in ads to push products. Professionals who make a living by how they look know that the minute people stop looking at them their careers are over.  But why spend your off time capturing even more images of yourself?

Perhaps for them, the physical and digital commodity exhibited in public — sometimes completely naked — is a public self that is less about them as a person than the private self exposed in the virtual images they choose to capture by their phones. And if so, is that true for all the people in this age demographic who take intimate  virtual selfies and also store intimate details of their views and life  histories in the cloud?

As I said, I wish I knew how to parse this new technology-driven public/private divide. And I’m betting the oldsters running companies these days wish they knew too.

Email  me at Linda Tucci, executive editor, SearchCIO, or find me on Twitter at @ltucci.

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