Category: Web 2.0

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Responses to Blog Reviews of The Future of Reputation: Part III

Cover 4 120 x 176.jpgIn this post, I’ll be responding to a few more reviews of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. This is the third installment (for more responses to reviews, see Part I and Part II).

1. Ethan Ackerman at Technology & Marketing Law Blog

Ethan Ackerman, an attorney and former legislative and technology counsel in the US Senate, has reviewed the book as a guest blogger on Professor Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog. He writes:

It is this aspect of Solove’s book – the deep AND wide thinking about an individual’s interaction with the modern Internet – that moves the book out of the one-point-rigorous-analysis of an academic article and the semi-random anecdotal topicality of a blog post and into the category of critical (in the must-read sense) literature. Where Solove’s previous work tackled the pressing but somewhat solvable problems that arose from individuals losing control of their personal information to government and commercial entities, this book tackles individuals’ loss of access and control of their information at the hands of other individuals – and, increasingly, by their own hand on blogs, social networking and image sharing sites of their own.

One of the things that enticed me to write about the issues in my book was the fact that they are so difficult to solve. In the end, there’s no good solution, just ways to cope. Ethan understands and sympathizes with my struggle, and he writes:

I’d have to agree with what I think Solove’s ultimate aim is here – informing people and getting them to think more about privacy themselves. To put words in Solove’s mouth, if everyone is more informed and thinks about these issues themselves, not only will any ultimate solutions probably be better, but they will also perhaps be moot, as more people will have chosen the non-problematic action in the first place.

The most effective solutions encourage norm change, and that occurs not just through the law but through making people more aware of the consequences of their online speech. Currently, I see both in the law and in the discourse an exaltation of speech over privacy, a strong sentiment that people should be able to say whatever they want with impunity. Shaping these norms to a more even balance between free speech and privacy is key if we are going to make any headway in addressing these problems.

2. Jon Garfunkel at Civilities

Software architect Jon Garfunkel has posted a review of the book at his blog Civilities. He writes:

The book was a delight to read, intensely footnoted and calmly presented. While there is no shortage of rhetoric extolling the virtues of new media, Solove takes that as obvious enough, and presents instead the dark side of cyberspace.

Jon agrees with my criticism of the CDA § 230, which provides immunity for ISPs and blogs for content posted by others, but he notes that I should do more to lay out the contours of an alternative rule:

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The Woes of Web 2.0

From CNN comes yet another story about people who disclose too much information on their blogs and social network websites:

On a Facebook group that celebrates young women getting drunk, there’s no such thing as going too far.

One young woman dances on top of a bar. Another sits on the toilet drinking a beer. Several vomit. One appears with a bruised and bandaged face (“I just got drunk and fell out of a car,” she writes.). In another photo, two women urinate into a waterfall.

What you won’t find on this page — called “Thirty Reasons Girls Should Call it a Night” — is humiliation and embarrassment. For the most part, the women post the photos themselves, seemingly with pride. This makes many adults — teachers, counselors, parents — worry that students aren’t thinking through the consequences of showing themselves drunk to the world.

Many photos on the site are accompanied by full names and the colleges the women attend, apparently without much concern that parents, or potential employers, will take a look.

Recently, a commenter to one of my posts pointed me to this apt cartoon at Geek Culture’s The Joy of Tech.

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Used with permission.

Will having embarrassing information on the Internet affect people’s employment prospects in the future? Or will it all just grow passé? Are we witnessing a generational shift, where people will just get used to being more exposed than ever before? Will people be less harsh in judging others, as everybody will have their drunk naked photos and other private information online? Or will there be consequences and regrets? Only time will tell, but I find it to be an interesting issue for cultural speculation.

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Juicy Campus: The Latest Breed of Gossip Website

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There’s a new breed of gossip website, coming to a campus near you. The site is called Juicy Campus, and it involves students posting gossip about each other at particular college campuses.

As Jessica Bennett writes at Newsweek:

JuicyCampus.com is a rapidly growing gossip site that solicits content with the promise of anonymity. But what began as fun and games—and now has spinoffs on seven college campuses, including Duke University, where it began—has turned ugly and, in many cases, flatly defamatory. The posts have devolved from innocuous tales of secret crushes to racist tirades and lurid finger-pointing about drug use and sex, often with the alleged culprit identified by first and last name.

Some sample recent post titles include:

* most overrated person at duke

* Whos Hot Whos Not.

* hottest freshman girl

* cutest non slutty sorority girl?

* Best BlowJ

* HOTTEST ASIAN SORORITY CHICK

* Dumbest Duke Student?

* GUYS WITH STDS!

The post titles above are followed by brief posts along with discussion threads containing comments of others. There are many posts about specific individuals, and the comments are crude, foul, and too explicit and offensive to reproduce here. Let’s say this — it makes AutoAdmit look somewhat tame by comparison.

I’m quoted in the Newsweek story, noting that if the law doesn’t change, sites like Juicy Campus will continue on with impunity. That’s because of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) § 230, which immunizes such sites for content posted by others. As I explained in my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet:

Unfortunately, courts are interpreting Section 230 so broadly as to provide too much immunity, eliminating the incentive to foster a balance between speech and privacy. The way courts are using Section 230 exalts free speech to the detriment of privacy and reputation. As a result, a host of websites have arisen that encourage others to post gossip and rumors as well as to engage in online shaming. These websites thrive under Section 230’s broad immunity.

Juicy Campus is one of those sites that flaunts its § 230 immunity. From the FAQs:

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Reputation Economies Symposium

yale-reputation.jpgI’m currently at the Reputation Economies Symposium at Yale Law School. The conference has been quite good.

Professor Rebecca Tushnet (Georgetown) is liveblogging the conference, and I found her account of my panel to very nicely summarize what was said. For those who are interested in the conference but unable to be here today, you should read Rebecca’s terrific account over at her 43(B)log:

Panel I: Making Your Name Online (Bawens, Ghosh, Hoffman, Masum, Noveck)

Panel II: Privacy and Reputational Protection (Acquisti, Citron, McGeveran, Solove, Zittrain)

Panel III: Reputational Quality and Information Quality (Gasser, Goel, Kirovski, Kuraishi, Prakash)

Panel IV: Ownership of Cyber-Reputation (Clippinger, Goldman, Sutor, Thompson, Tushnet)

UPDATE: Eric Goldman and Michael Zimmer also have good recaps.

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Megan Meier Blog: A Hoax

A few days ago, I blogged about a blog called “Megan Had It Coming” when a blogger in the name of Lori Drew (the mother who was involved in the case) attempted to explain her side of the story. I wrote in my post that the blog might very well be a hoax, and it indeed was. From CNN:

Police are investigating Internet postings of someone posing as the woman linked to an online hoax played on a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide. . . .

Lori Drew’s attorney said Friday that she is not the writer.

The St. Charles County sheriff’s department is investigating the blog postings on Blogger.com to see whether a crime has been committed, a spokesman said.

“Any Internet message that purports to be a member of the Drew family is being managed by an impostor and undoubtedly is being done for the purpose of further damaging the Drews’ reputation,” the family said in a statement. . . .

Lori Drew’s lawyer, Jim Briscoe, said Google Inc., which owns Blogger.com, has been contacted. A Google spokesman said the company is reviewing the impersonation allegation. . . .

Since then, the Drews have been besieged with negative publicity, and Meier’s death prompted her hometown of Dardenne Prairie to adopt a law engaging in Internet harassment a misdemeanor.

Now, elected officials say the law’s first use could be to prevent possible harassment against the Drews.

“I would say that would be a possibility, that they could be the first,” Mayor Pam Fogarty said Friday. “A law is a law is a law. You can’t discriminate.” . . . .

St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas said he heard about the postings through the news media and asked the sheriff’s department to investigate.

Banas said he had no idea if someone might be charged under the Dardenne Prairie measure. He explained any charges he brings are under state law, not under local ordinances.

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Breaking Up: From Face-to-Face to Facebook

In my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, I write about how members of the current generation — what I call “Generation Google” — are increasingly spreading gossip and rumors about their private lives online. Some people have few inhibitions, especially one woman who decided to break up with her boyfriend by posting it on Facebook.

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From Valleywag:

Can’t a girl publicly humiliate her boyfriend by dumping him via her Facebook status message anymore without getting harrassed by a horde of social news readers? Nope. New York videoblogger Sandra [lastname] tried to get away with it. The image above got over 1,600 votes on Digg.

On Digg, there are scores of comments attacking the woman.

Over at Wired’s Underwire blog, Jenna Wortham writes:

Since the story hit Digg on Dec. 4, the count (at the time of posting) clocks in at 1,878 Diggs and 482 comments. In addition to an onslaught of scathingly harsh comments denouncing “her” actions, a litany of low blows were slung, mocking her looks and ridiculing any bit of personal information scavenged from the web, adding up to the thinly veiled conclusion: The crowd agrees that Sandra [lastname] got exactly what she deserved. If the real Sandra [lastname] is indeed suffering at the expense of a jilted lover or a Punk’d-style prank gone horribly awry, one has to wonder at the long-term ramifications of this alleged hack and subsequent Digg-villification. Will future friends, boyfriends and employers remember this murky quagmire and steer clear?

One blog refers to the breakup as “Dumping 2.0.”

Meanwhile, it’s time for Facebook to snap into action with the appropriate Social Ad.

Hat tip: Guilherme Roschke

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Facebook Listens and Responds

facebook3.jpgI’m quite pleased to learn that Facebook has come to a privacy epiphany. I’ve been blogging a lot lately about the privacy problems with Facebook’s new features — Beacon and Social Ads:

* Facebook’s Beacon: News Feeds All Over Again?

* The Facebook-Fandango Connection: Invasion of Privacy?

* Facebook and the Appropriation of Name or Likeness Tort

* The New Facebook Ads — Starring You: Another Privacy Debacle?

Facebook recently announced that it is changing the way it obtains people’s consent before it uses or discloses their personal information. In particular, its change in policy involves Beacon. According to the AP:

More than 40 different Web sites, including Fandango.com, Overstock.com and Blockbuster.com, had embedded Beacon in their pages to track transactions made by Facebook users.

Unless instructed otherwise, the participating sites alerted Facebook, which then notified a user’s friends within the social network about items that had been bought or products that had been reviewed.

Facebook thought the marketing feeds would help its users keep their friends better informed about their interests while also serving as “trusted referrals” that would help drive more sales to the sites using the Beacon system.

But thousands of Facebook users viewed the Beacon referrals as a betrayal of trust. Critics blasted the advertising tool as an unwelcome nuisance with flimsy privacy protections that had already exasperated and embarrassed some users.

Some users have already complained about inadvertently finding out about gifts bought for them for Christmas and Hanukkah after Beacon shared information from Overstock.com. Other users say they were unnerved when they discovered their friends had found out what movies they were watching through purchases made on Fandango.

Peter Lattman of WSJ blog was one of the ones caught off guard by Beacon, when he discovered to his dismay that Facebook announced to his friends that he bought tickets to Bee Movie on Fandango.

According to the New York Times:

Under Beacon, when Facebook members purchase movie tickets on Fandango.com, for example, Facebook sends a notice about what movie they are seeing in the News Feed on all of their friends’ pages. If a user saves a recipe on Epicurious.com or rates travel venues on NYTimes.com, friends are also notified. There is an opt-out box that appears for a few seconds, but users complain that it is hard to find.

The New York Times story explains Facebook’s change in policy:

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Strahilevitz on Reputation Nation

strahilevitz1.jpgProfessor Lior Strahilevitz (U. Chicago Law School) has posted on SSRN his new article, Reputation Nation: Law in an Era of Ubiquitous Personal Information, forthcoming 102 Northwestern University Law Review (Oct. 2008). Whereas I explore the dark side to the Internet’s effects on reputation in my work, Lior focuses on the many benefits in his scholarship. For an earlier example of Lior’s thoughtful work on the topic, see ‘How’s My Driving?’ for Everyone (and Everything?), 81 New York University Law Review 1699 (2006). Lior’s work is always fascinating and worth reading, and his new piece is no different.

From the abstract:

Modern technology has made two sorts of previously private information widely available in the past decade: Information about individual’s past actions and activities, often contained in government files, consumer credit histories, and advertising profiles; and Feedback information about individual’s reputations and preferences, often contained in social networking sites’ pages, eBay feedback scores or Slashdot karma scores. In the coming decade, wearable computing devices and advances in network technologies have the potential to transform completely the way that strangers interact with each other and consumers interact with service providers. This paper is the first to ask systematically how the law should respond to the newly widespread availability of this information.

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Yale Law School Conference on Online Reputation

yale-reputation.jpgOn December 8, 2007, Yale Law School’s Information Society Project will be holding a conference about online reputation called Reputation Economies in Cyberspace. I’ll be participating in the symposium and will be talking about my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. Other participants include Alessandro Acquisti, Michel Bauwens, Danielle Citron, John Clippinger, William McGeveran, Urs Gasser, Rishab A. Ghosh, Ashish Goel, Eric Goldman, Auren Hoffman, Darko Kirovski, Mari Kuraishi, Hassan Masum, Beth Noveck, Vipul Ved Prakash, Bob Sutor, Mozelle Thompson, Rebecca Tushnet, and Jonathan Zittrain.

From the symposium press release:

How do you know whom to trust when you shop online or search for information on the Internet? How do businesses, individuals, and information sources manage their online reputations?

Leading information experts, scholars, technologists, activists, social entrepreneurs, and industry representatives will consider these questions at the “Symposium on Reputation Economies in Cyberspace” taking place Saturday, December 8, at Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street, New Haven. The symposium, open to the public, is hosted by the Information Society Project (ISP) at Yale Law School.

“A new generation of web tools based on collaborative participation and information sharing is becoming mainstream,” said ISP Executive Director and Lecturer in Law Eddan Katz. “This symposium will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss publicly, for the first time, the legal implications of these tools.”

“Reputation economies in cyberspace have a broad effect on the ways in which we study, conduct business, shop, communicate, create, or even procreate,” said Shay David, Microsoft Visiting Fellow at the ISP. “By bringing together leading scholars from industry and academia, this interdisciplinary landmark event will further our understanding of reputation economies’ impact on technology and society.”

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