Next EU Commissioner Responsible For Internet Says Celebrities Storing Nude Pictures Online Are 'Stupid'

from the blaming-the-victims dept

We recently wrote about the hearing of Cecilia Malmström, likely to be the next trade commissioner for the European Union. On the same day, Günther Oettinger, the candidate for the post responsible for "digital economy and society," was also quizzed by members of the European Parliament. His replies were mostly pretty staid -- previously, he was the energy commissioner, and seemed more at home among gas and oil pipes than the series of tubes that go to make up the Internet -- but one comment has drawn much criticism, as the Guardian reports here:
Former EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, 61, is used to accusations that he is more digitally naïve than digitally native by now. But at a hearing in front of the European parliament, the EU’s next commissioner designate for digital economy and society raised some serious questions about his suitability.

During a three-hour grilling by MEPs in Brussels, Oettinger said it would not be his job to protect stars "stupid enough to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online” -- seemingly unaware that the recent leak of celebrities’ nude photographs had come about as a result of a targeted hacking attack.
Julia Reda, the Pirate Party's representative in the European Parliament, wrote a fiery post pointing out why that comment was so wrong:
Let's recap the incident he's referring to: Recently, private photos of female celebrities were published against their will. Far from what Oettinger is suggesting, they didn't "put the photos online". The most likely sources of the photos were cloud-based phone backups. The women might not even have been aware of the backups' existence, since they are created automatically in the background on many phones. It appears that attackers were able to break their encryption due to security failures, like a service allowing an unlimited number of different passwords to be tried out in rapid succession or granting access after posing "security questions" with guessable or obtainable answers. One of the victims was underage when the published photos were taken.

If you manage to look beyond the tabloid celebrity/sex angle, the statement is unbelievable: The person applying to be in charge of shoring up trust in the internet so that Europeans do more business online just victim-blamed people whose personal data was accessed and spread without authorization. He placed the moral blame for that crime squarely on the victims rather than the perpetrators.
Although that incident caught people's attention, there were plenty of other things to be worried about in Oettinger's replies. Aside from an evident lack of familiarity with the digital world -- something that can be rectified, one hopes, given time and good advisers -- there were indications that he is likely to see the Internet through an industrial prism, with its users little more than passive consumers of products sold by online businesses. Here, for example, is Euractiv's translation of his reply to a question about the major reform of copyright in the EU, which is one of the key tasks facing him if he is appointed:
"I stand for reliable protection of copyright," Oettinger said.

"We must adequately protect the creator, so these creators will still exist tomorrow. On the other hand, users in the digital world are interested in gaining access to all cultural products." This requires finding a delicate balance, Oettinger said.

"I will commit to working on a draft law, finding a balance for European copyright law in the context of the digital world," the Commissioner designate said.
Pretty generic stuff, with no hint that Internet users might themselves be creators of materials that they are happy to share, without needing to worry about "protection." That suggests Oettinger's idea of "balance" is likely to be skewed heavily in favor of the copyright industry. In other words, a rare opportunity to move on the debate about copyright in the digital world by looking at things from a fresh viewpoint, and trying out some new ideas, has almost certainly been squandered.

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Filed Under: celebrities, eu, gunther oettinger, internet, julia reda, nudes


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2014 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: So where is "the cloud" ?

    I would say that if the files can be reached via the Internet they are on-line, and you are relying on fallible security to keep them private. The risk of a compromise goes up with the degree of fame a person has.

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