Sony is clearly worried about all of the news coverage of the hack of its movies and a ton of other date. It sent out a letter on Sunday to journalists and media groups demanding that they destroy and avoid any of the information hacked and put up online. It’s way too late for that to work though, and frankly comes off as rather counter-productive since the immediate question that comes up is, what else is there in the data that Sony doesn’t want people to see?
Sony “does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading or making any use of” the leaked data, the letter states, calling the data “stolen information.”
That may or may not hold any water legally, but three weeks after the hack, it’s a moot point. Whether its movies that haven’t been released, angry emails between Google and the MPAA or the somewhat random find of Deloitte salary tables, there’s no way to really stop the media from continuing to hunt for interesting stories. If anything, being told not to do so will only spur the digging even more. It’s a pretty clear demonstration of the Streisand Effect where trying to hide something simply makes more people come look at it, a common event when the digital age meets pre-digital cover-ups as Quendrith Johnson pointed out.
And the alleged hackers have said they will be putting out even more data before Christmas as part of their apparent attempt to get Sony to withdraw The Interview because of its plot involving an attempted assassination of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s head of state. Even if media companies were willing to acquiesce, the letter itself is interesting news, and not something that will take the spotlight off of Sony any time soon.
There hasn’t been much comment from other studios, but if they are smart, they are taking notes on how Sony is handling the issue and preparing to do better if something similar happens to them. Cybersecurity improvements can do a lot to limit the likelihood of a successful data hack, but the fact of the matter is that if the right hackers are motivated enough to go after a company, there’s a limit to how much can be done to stop them. The smart move would be to look for ways to limit the damage they can do and, more importantly, have a better response ready for any unpleasant or even incriminating information that comes to light. Bullying letters from lawyers are an outdated way of dealing with the information hacks of today. In other words, if you want people to stop looking at something, putting out a big sign saying “Don’t Look at This” is not clever.