Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 22, 2009
There was a news story that someone on Twitter pointed out coming out of the U.K. The story is titled Ruling on NightJack author Richard Horton kills blogger anonymity, and it talks about this police officer who’d actually won an award for his blog, but wanted to keep his anonymity because he was a police officer, and, it turns out, many of the things he was writing about he had inside knowledge on.
The judge decided that people who write blogs don’t have the right for any expectation of anonymity, The Times outed him, and now not only is he in trouble, but his blog is gone, and that’s that from the NightJack.
I’m of mixed thoughts on this topic, as I’m betting many of you are. On every one of my blogs, I’m Mitch. On my business websites I’m Mitch. I do have a couple of websites where I don’t mention my name, but it wouldn’t take a heck of a lot for anyone to figure out who I was, especially if they read the disclaimers.
But there are a lot of you out there who are hiding your identities for whatever reason. Though this ruling was in the U.K., you can be pretty safe in figuring that the same rule would apply here. The basic premise is that blogging gives you a public platform, and thus, even being hosted on your own site, the expectation of privacy isn’t valid and won’t be honored. At some point, if you irritated someone else, or someone decided to dig a little bit, you will be found out.
The question is whether you’re exhibiting behavior that makes you need to worry about it or not. For instance, many commenters here don’t use their real names. Y’all know I kind of like to have a real name of some kind to respond to, even if it’s only a nickname. Some of the rest of you believe that you’re protecting yourselves by using the fake name, whereas others of you believe you’re helping to enhance your SEO by using those names; both are false premises. I probably know who most of you are because you’ve forgotten some basics of how to hide yourself, or at least how to try to hide yourself. So, I do know some of y’alls names, but I’m not going to out you because, well, you haven’t irritated me.
Still, this issue of anonymity needs to be explored further. If you had someone on the inside of a corrupt company who was telling the rest of us what was going on, and we wanted to keep getting that information, wouldn’t we be happy with that person having anonymity? Sure, the company wouldn’t be, and they could get an injunction of some sort to get that information, but how secure would we be with that?
We could go to what I’ll call a vanity or community blog site, create an account there of some type, and start writing, making it somewhat harder to track us down if we used some kind of account from a place like Yahoo or Excite as our email address. But those types of sites don’t usually get a lot of attention, so your complaints would be lost in the crowd noise.
And, for most of us, if someone was saying a lot of negative things about us, we might want to know who was saying it, and would be frustrated by someone hiding behind a wall of anonymity, making accusations that we’re not sure how to respond to because sometimes fighting makes you look as guilty as not doing anything.
There is another side, though, which goes with what I’ve always said; sometimes, there are consequences for your actions, and if you feel you’re in the right and can put up with it all, then by all means do what you do, whether you’re the outer or the outee (I know it’s not a word, but it fits here anyway).
I think it prompts an interesting discussion and something to think about. Basically I have nothing much to hide, but I know some of you do. So, what are your thoughts on some of this?