London - Google was drawn into the celebrity nude hacking scandal on Tuesday after it helped direct internet users to a British actress’s sex tape.
The search giant was criticised after a link to an explicit video apparently featuring Jessica Brown Findlay appeared on the first page of searches for the star.
The 24-year-old, who played Lady Sybil in ITV’s Downton Abbey, is understood to be distraught after three clips of her naked were apparently stolen from her Apple iCloud account.
The videos have now been viewed more than a million times online.
On Tuesday night, in the face of mounting pressure, Google finally took action – but only after one 54-second video had been available via its search engine for at least eight hours.
A Google spokesman said: “Searches for ‘Jessica Brown Findlay’ no longer deliver the video on the front page, which should limit its exposure.”
The Downton Abbey star is one of around 100 female celebrities on a “target list” by anonymous hackers who have stolen dozens of intimate pictures and videos and put them online.
Apple confirmed that some celebrity iCloud accounts had been deliberately targeted and hacked. It said none of the cases it had so far investigated were a result of bugs in its iCloud or Find my iPhone systems, but were a result of a “very targeted attack” on the security procedures of celebrity accounts.
It insisted there had not been a general security breach.
A spokesman said: “After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet.
“None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone.
“We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.”
The videos emerged three days ago on niche Internet forums and spread to the mainstream web thanks in part to Google and other websites.
The FBI is investigating the leak, which had left stars – including actress Jennifer Lawrence, 24, and model Kate Upton, 22 – powerless to stop the images of them in various stages of address spreading around the web and being watched millions of times. A spokesman for Miss Brown Findlay said she is treating it as a “criminal matter”.
Tory MP John Whittingdale, who chairs the Commons culture committee, was among those who had called for Google to stop directing search engine users to the video.
He said: “They have already acknowledged they have responsibility for removing links to child pornography and criminal websites. This material appears to have been obtained illegally and should be treated in the same way.
“If they don’t, then we should consider bringing in legislation to force them to block some material.” Google is currently classed as an “aggregator” rather than a “publisher” of material, so it cannot be sued for providing links to offensive material.
British stars Michelle Keegan, 27, Cat Deeley, 37, Cara Delevigne, 22, and Kelly Brook, 34, were also on the hackers’ “target list”, although no stolen photos had emerged of them online.
Former Harry Potter star Emma Watson, 24, spoke out in defence of her fellow actresses and criticised those who have flocked to look at the videos and photos online. On Twitter, she said: “Even worse than seeing women’s privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy.”
She spoke out amid fury over comedian Ricky Gervais who tweeted: “Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on the computer.”
He quickly deleted the post, as some readers accused him of “blaming the violation of a woman’s body on her”. - Daily Mail