Friday, August 21, 2009

No Privacy With Blogger

By now, most of you know of the Liskula Cohen case in which she sued Google and succesfully won the right to discover the identity of a woman who was making disparaging comments about her online.

Were those comments accurate or slanderous? Not knowing Cohen, I couldn't say. But I do know that Cohen has dealt a severe blow to anonymity on the net.

For many who treasure their anonymity, this will mean a rush to alternative solutions such as IP anonymizers, but even those are not infallible.

I am not ashamed of what I write, but I hide my identity due to other reasons. For instance:

1. There are some groups that I definitely disagree with. These are groups who are not known for their debating skills or honesty. At best, they can harass you in unpleasant ways which make you wish you hadn't spoken up at all. At worst, their idea of a good debate can end with someone beheaded.

2. I am a professional business person. It is always wisest to never leave a trail that a potential client or employer may disagree with. Although it is smart to keep your opinions to yourself in the workplace, this rule should not bleed into your personal life. Writing under a pseudonym gives us all the opportunity to be ourselves without worrying about how it may impact our livelihoods.

Ultimately, honest opinions may be labeled as hate speech. At that point, none of us will be safe. Are you gay and you hate organized religion? Wait until the Catholic Church sues you.

Are you a Baptist who speaks out against Muslim repression? Wait until someone from the local mosque decides that he should put a fatwa (i.e. "hit") out on you and your family.

The KKK could target blacks, the Black Panthers could target whites.

Liskula Cohen's case is complicated by the fact that she's a minor celebrity. It's generally agreed that the public is free to speak about public figures. If not, Perez Hilton is out of business. But there are so many gray areas that it's safer to speak freely behind the mask of an assumed identity.

Blogger may have just taken away this freedom.


Ed Abbey said...

I'm with you all the way on this one. I think that was a horrible precedent to set. I also just read about another blogger called PittGirl who revealed her identity due to other people finding it out who were about to 'expose' her and she ended up getting fired from her job. Although not truly anonymous, I do enjoin the anonymity that I have which allows me to say what I feel without risking lawsuits or being fired.

daveawayfromhome said...

two questions:

1. Will Google/Blogger appeal? It could've just been a wrongheaded judge, which can be corrected on appeal.

2. Was said blogger herself a "minor celebrity"? If so, the judge may have determined that her right to privacy was no greater than that of her adversary.

Also, Ed, I havent forgotten to respond to your last comment on the other post, I just havent had the time to give it for proper consideration.

Ed Abbey said...

I'll have to check back when you do. You may not believe it but I love our debates even if we rarely agree.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, Dittos all the way.


1. I doubt it, as they already released the information. The cat is out of the bag.

2. The blogger was NOT a minor celebrity but even if she WAS, how could the judge determine that before her identity was revealed?