Law professor talks Web privacy

Law professor Daniel Solove encouraged audience members at Borders Monday night to Google themselves, in an effort to promote awareness about the lack of privacy online.

Solove, who specializes in privacy issues, recently published “The Future of Reputation,” about the voyeuristic nature of the Internet and its impact on modern society.

At the Borders book signing, Solove explained that much more information is available online than ever before and is accessible to anyone. The nature of privacy is changing, he said.

“Think about what you put online because it might have some consequences for you down the road,” Solove said in an interview. “There are a lot of people who have regrets about information that exists about them online many years later.”

He added, “Think about the fact your employers or your parents or, one day, your kids might read it. Think about it from those perspectives. Be somewhat cautious about what you reveal.”

One example of the loss of online privacy is the situation of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a radio host. A former lover sold naked pictures of her to a pornographic Web site. She unsuccessfully sued the site, and her pictures were redistributed across the Internet. Ironically, the site that originally posted the pictures later successfully sued the sites that copied them.

Solove said the major problem is that there is no obligation for anyone to follow any moral rules on the Internet.

“(There’s) no incentive for anyone to cooperate,” Solove said. “You’ll only (remove something) if you feel ethically inclined.”

Other instances mentioned in Solove’s book include a video of a woman on a Korean subway refusing to pick up dog feces and a video of a boy swinging a plastic pole who later became “Star Wars Kid” after the video was republished and edited online.

Solove said it was unfortunate that some people become “shackled to their past,” and bound to a particular incident for the rest of their lives.

His solution is to have law enforcement ask people to negotiate among themselves before taking the issue to court to be settled.

Solove called current college students “generation Google” and noted that this age is bound to this identity by the digital trail that has been left over the years.

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