Once an anonymous blogger, Rosemary Port now faces the interesting dilemma of having her identity revealed. Perhaps her Skanks in New York blog is something she wanted to keep as her own little secret, but that’s a rather impossible option now. Stripped of her Internet veil, Port is feeling a little vulnerable and victimized. How could her identity have been revealed?
After posting an unflattering photo of cover model Liskula Cohen, she found her Blogger.com registration information being handed over to Cohen by none other than Blogger owner Google itself. Cohen had sued Google in order to have the identity of Port revealed in an effort to have the photo removed from the website. In an CNN interview, Cohen insists that she didn’t want the photo being posted online and accessible to the public forever.
Now Port is suing Google for $15 million, claiming that her right to anonymity was violated. That’s a pickle.
Where does the true problem lie? With bloggers being treated like tabloid publishers and Google being placed in the middle, we find ourselves in the midst of an interesting social debacle that truly highlights the way in which online publishing is interacting with our culture.
Should Port be able to sue Google, seeing as Google was merely complying with the court ruling based on Cohen’s initial lawsuit? And should Cohen be able to sue Google merely to find the identity of an individual that was publishing anonymously because she was caught doing something she now regrets? Ultimately cases such as these will determine the way in which companies like Google extend features to their users because of the level of legal risk and involvement from the government.
When it comes down to it, there isn’t really a right or a wrong answer as far as privacy, web anonymity, and the right to free speech goes in the cases of Port and Cohen. In a sense, everyone got caught red-handed and Google is the medium by which the world discovers the skeletons in people’s closets. We just have some more fodder for privacy advocates and celebrities alike to use towards their own goals with the publishing industry.
Bloggers, take this as a lesson learned. Your anonymity is not guaranteed. Models, remember that portions of your life are public and that tangible evidence of your life (i.e. photos) are very easy to publish online.