First, model Liskula Cohen won a court order requiring Google to turn over information identifying an anonymous blogger, who Cohen alleged had defamed her using Google's Blogger service. The unmasked blogger, Rosemary Port, immediately found herself an unwilling center of of attention; the confluence of (semi-) celebrity, juicy gossip, and crumbling internet anonymity, with Google in the middle of it all, made the story irresistible to just about everyone.
Cohen dropped her defamation suit immediately after learning Port's name; but Rosemary Port reacted by promising to sue Google for revealing her identity.
Port is claiming that Google should have done more to protect her privacy when Cohen took the issue to court. Her lawyer actually used the term "fiduciary duty" in interviews, a phrase which implies a very high level of obligation, one which it's not clear that Google really had to Port.
But users probably have at least some expectation that when they start an "anonymous" blog, whether at Blogger or elsewhere, the blog will in fact remain anonymous. This suit, if it does materialize, may educate us all on just how much privacy courts will expect services like Blogger to provide.
For further reading: at Concurring Opinions, privacy expert and George Washington University law professor Daniel Solove delves into some of the legal issues running through this suit. Beyond wondering whether the court order unmasking Port was too easily granted, Solove wonders also whether Port would be better served by suing Cohen, not Google. After all, there's a good argument to be made that Cohen got her court order specifically to publicly reveal Port's identity, with no intention of following through on her suit. That in itself could be a tort commonly called "abuse of legal process."
- Outed 'Skanks in NYC' blogger to sue Google (CNET News)
- Is It O.K. to Blog About This Woman Anonymously? (New York Times)
- Does the average member of the public have any privacy rights? (provided by The Umansky Law Firm)