Anonymity on the internet is under attack. The reason is that internet privacy regulations protecting users in the US have been abolished, and elsewhere in the world, similar things are happening that can harm your right to internet anonymity. Of course, if you use an anonymous VPN like TorGuard, you can avoid any incident where your personal IP address could get leaked.
We don’t advocate or support internet trolling, or sharing illegal content, but we do value the precedent of online privacy and anonymity. If we don’t value privacy and anonymity after all, it’s only a matter of time before we see regulations and laws that hide information and restrict internet use itself. This is already happening in China and places like Russia, or Egypt, which is why these countries are trying to “ban VPN” completely. Just recently we found an instance of a case that could set a terrible precedent, even if the ruling of the case might provide “justice” for the victim.
A Manhattan Judge ruled Wednesday that the social networking platform, Tumblr, needs to disclose the information of the hundreds of people who have shared a decade old “revenge porn” video.
“I’m directing Tumblr to disclose to petitioner all the account registration information concerning each individual account that re-blogged the images and videos that are at issue here,” said Manhattan Supreme Court Justice David Cohen.
This video was shared against the subject’s will, who, at the time, was an underage teenager. While Tumblr could release the information of the original person who shared the video, that same person might not even be the person who originally was the victim’s partner. But they are taking it a step further, requesting the IP address of EVERY person who shared the video–ever, within the last 10 years, so that the “revenge porn” victim can sue each and every one of them.
Szalkiewicz, the revenge porn victim, claims that she didn’t even know that the video was live until recently when men on Facebook started asking her if she enjoyed the contents of the video. Tumblr has since removed the video, but Szalkiewicz is not satisfied. Szalkiewicz reports that the video had a “huge emotional toll on me”, and she went through months of feeling “really depressed”. Now, understandably so, she wants revenge on the revenge porn spreaders.
Critics of the judge think that the ruling is way overboard, and perhaps even impossible for Tumblr to comply with.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation tried to delay the release by 14 days with EFF attorney Frederic B. Jennings stating:
“The First Amendment requires that courts afford anonymous speakers adequate time to learn that they may be unmasked so they have a meaningful opportunity to challenge those determinations.”
The judge however denied this request, and on June 28th Tumblr warned roughly 300 users that it would release their private information by July 10th.
Again, while we don’t support “Revenge porn” or sharing illegal content, we do think that this case represents something important. At what point do people lose their privacy online?
Would these users have shared the video if they had known that their identities could one day be revealed? Would the internet be a better place if no one was anonymous? Rulings like this certainly seem to think so.
Or perhaps, without online anonymity, it would it be much worse. If no one on the internet was anonymous, then we could see a huge uptick in frivolous lawsuits like never seen before.
Additionally, companies would exploit everyone’s public identity to track habits and target ads and possibly increase costs based on a user’s public information, and salary. Suffice to say, losing anonymity is a slippery slope, and this case might just be one of the first to start us on that slope.
Without a VPN, that is.