Monday, July 19, 2010

In separate cases, plaintiffs and prosecutors seek identities of anonynous blog posters, comment authors and senders of email; questions on privacy and "reach" of information posed

A lawsuit in New York by Miriam and Michael Hersh regarding business interests had led to subpoenas to Yahoo! and Google requesting the identities of over 30 apparently anonymous bloggers, as well as email account holders and commenters on websites regarding business matters of the plaintiffs. A story from Electronic Frontier Foundation posted July 14 maintains “EFF Urges Court to Block Dragnet Subpoenas Targeting Online Commenters: Privacy and Anonymity at Risk in New York Conspiracy Suit.” The link is (website url) here, and includes a link to a motion to quash the subpoenas. EFF maintains that anonymity of speakers is protected by the First Amendment, and that the subpoena creates a chilling effect.

There is also a convoluted situation in the 11th Circuit where a prosecutor subpoenaed the emails of a whistleblower disclosing information about a hospital in Georgia, with an article by Cindy Cohn, “Court fails to protect privacy of whistleblower’s email”, link (web url) here.  Again there is a philosophical question about how “public” information connected with an email sent to a small list of people is, when the logical possibility exists that the information can be circulated, but the practical probability does not (yesterday’s discussion).

A Canadian stie called "Slaw" reports a story by Omar Ha-Redeye about possible blogger anonymity suits coming to Canada here.

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