The hacking of celebrity accounts and the theft of explicit photos of a number of female stars has become even more serious, with word that at least one of the women was underage when the leaked pictures were taken. Several sites hosting the photos - which have already prompted an official statement from Apple early today, about the role iCloud played in their theft - have been notified that, in some shots, Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney was under the age of 18.
Maroney, who turned 18 in December last year, is one of a number of notable women whose online accounts were targeted in the exploit. Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Mary E. Winstead, and Rihanna are among others involved, with varying degrees of confirmation or denial from each.
According to TMZ, one well known site for explicit content received a letter from Maroney's legal team, demanding the removal of the images and pointing out that they showed the gymnast when she was underage.
Further sites received notifications from her attorneys that, since Maroney owned the copyright on the pictures, they must be removed. Maroney herself tweeted yesterday that the images were fakes, though it's possible that they could be composites intended to make the athlete look compromised.
Meanwhile, according to the Daily Dot, a Reddit subforum focused on the stolen photos has also been sharing images of actress Liz Lee that were leaked by a former boyfriend, and also taken when she was just sixteen. Reddit's decision not to delete all signs of anything but the underage images continues to garner the site criticism.
Although initial speculation centered on an iCloud vulnerability, Apple weighed in earlier today with a strong denial that the cloud storage service was flawed.
Instead, Apple argued, the accounts in question had been victim to "a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions."
Whatever the method of the exploit, it has prompted fierce debate online about the advantages and dangers of the cloud, the role of technology and explicit photo sharing, and the rights to privacy that those in the public eye can expect.
With the FBI confirming that it too is weighing into the investigation, the news that images of underage girls were among the stolen content is unlikely to make any repercussions on those responsible more leniant.