The man who’ll almost certainly be Europe’s next head of digital issues appears to be standing by his comments that victims of the recent celebrity photo leak were “stupid” and can’t be protected.
Gunther Oettinger introduced the statement by saying that it was impossible for lawmakers and regulators to mitigate all risks. He then gave what he called a “semi-serious” example, saying:
The fact that recently there have been an increasing number of public lamentations about nude photos of celebrities who took selfies – I just can’t believe it. If someone is dumb enough as a celebrity to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online, they surely can’t expect us to protect them. I mean, stupidity is something you can not – or only partly – save people from.
That’s prompted harsh criticisms from some European Parliament members. Julia Reda, one of the few elected representatives from the Pirate Party, wrote:
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.
She also noted that the problem of online accounts and backups being hacked in the search for compromising photographs happens regularly to “ordinary” women but doesn’t make the news because of their lack of celebrity status.
Contacted by several media outlets, Oettinger’s office replied with a statement simply reading ” Everybody has a right to privacy. The EU Commission wants to make cloud computing safer.” The BBC said a spokeswoman for Oettinger refused to apologise for, or expand upon, the comments,.
Oettinger was speaking at a hearing among Europe’s elected representatives relating to his appointment as the European Union’s new commissioners for digital economy and society, a role he’ll take on from November.
It was similar to a US confirmation hearing in that he was quizzed at length by politicians about his attitude and approach to specific issues. However, politicians have to vote to approve the entire proposed team of commissioners as a whole, so it’s highly unlikely the comments will stop him getting the job.