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Hackers can't be stopped, but some of their crimes can

By Penn Jillette
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Sony Pictures announce the controversial comedy "The Interview," a film depicting the assassination of North Korea's leader, will have a limited release on Christmas Day. The studio previously announced it would shelve plans to release the film after it became the victim of a cyber attack thought to have originated in North Korea. Click to see how the saga unfolded. Sony Pictures announce the controversial comedy "The Interview," a film depicting the assassination of North Korea's leader, will have a limited release on Christmas Day. The studio previously announced it would shelve plans to release the film after it became the victim of a cyber attack thought to have originated in North Korea. Click to see how the saga unfolded.
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How the Sony hack unfolded
Sony Hack Timeline
How the Sony hack unfolded
How the Sony hack unfolded
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Penn Jillette: Hacking is a crime that is enabled when we invade others' privacy
  • If we don't look at nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence or Sony emails, crime is lessened, he says
  • Jillette: I've been hacked but my information wasn't made public

Editor's note: Penn Jillette, a writer, television host and frequent guest on a wide range of shows, is half of the Emmy Award-winning magic act duo Penn & Teller. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN) -- How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials, juries who judge, and justice is handed out . . . but no one dies.

With many forms of cybercrime and hacking, we can just decide, as a society, to take away much of the damage before it happens. Imagine if the hackers had stolen intimate pictures from Jennifer Lawrence, and we all just agreed that, "She didn't want us to see these pictures, so we're not going to look."

Penn Jillette
Penn Jillette

We don't have a right to her body. If you were over at Jennifer's house, and she left the room to get you a shortbread cookie and cup of decaffeinated tea (this is my fantasy), you wouldn't take that opportunity to search for nude pictures on her computer.

If she wanted to change her shirt before you went out to see Dylan together (still my fantasy), and she asked you to turn her back while she did that, even if you were a bit tempted to peek, you wouldn't. You're a good person and you would respect her wishes.

If you were visiting Amy Pascal, and she left the room to get . . . um, let's say a nice fig-filled cookie and some hot chocolate, I don't think you would open up her computer and read her company emails to see if you could find something that you could use against her.

New message to Sony from hackers
Lawrence: Hacked nude pics a 'sex crime'

You just wouldn't do that. I don't even want to know what people are saying behind my back about me, let alone about someone else.

If you follow that same morality, if you simply think that people have a right to privacy and that you don't want to see what people don't want you to see, well, there would still be hacking crimes ... but the victims would suffer less.

"It is not our right to see pictures and emails that the owners didn't want us to see."
Penn Jillette

I've been seriously blackmailed. I've had all the information on my computer fall into the criminal hands and the criminal ask for money to not publish that information. Yup, there were sex pictures of me and somehow my criminal thought that me naked was as valuable as Jennifer Lawrence naked.

My criminal was a f-----g idiot. There was nothing on my drive that would have really done any damage to my career. It really wouldn't have even embarrassed me that much, but I was still freaked by a bad guy looking at my stuff. My criminal was busted and stopped and the information never got out, but it was still yucky.

Jennifer Lawrence and Sony are all going to feel violated and the crime is still real, but we, as a society, can make much of the damage go away. We don't need reporters to team up with the criminals to help them do the damage.

The crime is newsworthy, but not the content. It is not our right to see pictures and emails that the owners didn't want us to see. We have no right to stolen goods. Even if someone else stole it first, stealing is still wrong.

We can't stop any damage a murder causes just by not reporting it and not looking, but we can do that with hacking.

Let's do that. If someone doesn't want us to see something, let's not look. Let's not help criminals.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Penn Jillette.

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