The FBI and computer giant Apple are investigating the apparent hacking of nude photographs of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities after they surfaced online.
The photographs which appeared on websites including 4chan, Reddit, Twitter and Tumblr over the weekend drew angry responses from the women, some of whom made complaints to law enforcement officials claiming that private information had been stolen from Apple’s “cloud-based” internet data storage system, iCloud.
“This is a flagrant violation of privacy,” said a spokeswoman for the actress, an Oscar winner for her role in Silver Linings Playbook and star of The Hunger Games franchise. “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”
A lawyer for model-turned-actress Kate Upton called the leaked photographs "an outrageous violation" sparking a frenzy of media interest by confirming some of the photos were authentic setting the images apart from fake images that regularly appear online.
“We intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible,” said Ms Upton’s attorney Lawrence Shire.
Other celebrities such as singer Ariana Grande and actress and singer Victoria Justice said that the photographs purporting to be of them and posted online after the alleged hacking were fake.
“The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high-profile individuals and is addressing the matter,” said a spokeswoman for the bureau.
Apple said that it was looking at whether its iCloud data backup service had been attacked by hackers. “We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” said a spokeswoman for the computer company.
Hackers are believed to have accessed the cloud storage technology, which is used by more than 300 million worldwide, by using a system that automatically guesses passwords to online accounts.
British comedian Ricky Gervais was at the tail end of a social media backlash when he suggested that the celebrities were to blame because they had taken the photos and stored them in the first place.
“Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer,” Mr Gervais said in a message posted to his near six million followers on Twitter.
The FBI previously investigated a hacker who stole nude photographs and personal information from the email accounts of actresses including Scarlett Johnsson and Mila Kunis in 2011.