The man who officials say leaked nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence and several other celebrities has pleaded guilty to felony computer-hacking charges.
Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old Pennsylvania native, caused waves in the entertainment industry after it was reported that he helped leak the nude photos online in August 2014. This week, he signed a plea agreement and could face up to five years in prison.
But Collins is just one of several people making headlines for leaking explicit images of people without their consent. Former ESPN anchor Erin Andrews was awarded $55 million of her $75 million civil lawsuit against Michael David Barrett and the owner of a Nashville Marriott. Barret, who stalked Andrews to the Marriott, proceeded to film her through a peephole in 2008 and upload the video onto the Internet.
Gawker is also in hot water this week as jurors will hear closing arguments in ex-pro wrestler Hulk Hogan's case against the celebrity gossip site. Hogan is suing Gawker for $100 million after they posted a video he says was recorded without his knowledge.
Following Collins' photo leak, Lawrence bravely spoke out out against the culture that made it (and the media frenzy that followed) possible. "Just because I'm a public figure, just because I'm an actress, does not mean that I asked for this," she told Vanity Fair, later adding, "The law needs to be changed, and we need to change."
News headlines from this week could not make the message any clearer: violating people's privacy is not OK.
As the general public awaits rulings in Hogan's high-profile case, stories like these are a good reminder that everyone should take their privacy seriously. And so far, major organizations are taking notice. Apple has resisted the FBI's attempt at acquiring a backdoor to iPhones. Revenge porn, the practice of releasing explicit photos or videos of an ex after you've broken up, has been made illegal in 26 states. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all now have policies in place to combat revenge porn and other non-consensual uploads.
"Going forward, we'll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results," Google said in a statement last June.
If you're looking for simple ways to protect your own privacy online, here are three steps you can take right now.
1. Give everything a (complex) password.
Make sure your computer needs a password to open even after it's just been asleep. Give your phone a password, too, and if you want to be extra safe make it more than a four-digit password, since those are not hard for a hacker to break into.
2. Use two-factor authorization.
Protect everything from your Facebook and Google accounts to your Dropbox with two-factor authorization. This means that every time you log in somewhere you will also be texted a code to your cell phone to put in. That way, even if someone acquires a password or guesses it, they'd still need a second level of authorization.
3. Lie on your security questions.
This nifty trick comes from Techlicious. If you think about it, simple questions like, "What's your mother's maiden name?" or "Where were you born?" don't keep accounts particularly secure — anyone can figure them out. On the other hand, if you lie, it's far more difficult for someone to get access. If you're worried about memorizing these lies, just write them down and keep them somewhere in your work desk or at home.
Cover photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images.