Privacy Law

Many Wince at Above the Law Blogger's Chilling Account of Online 'Stalk'

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Law blogger Kashmir Hill thought she had few illusions about Internet privacy, according to her biography page for a True/Slant blog about privacy, technology and the law.

But the online research that resulted in the Above the Law editor’s chilling Assembly article about the enormous amount of detailed personal information a stranger can glean from social networking sites as an “online stalker” has left readers at the ABA Journal and elsewhere wincing.

Hill herself found the situation uncomfortable and recounted the difficulty she had speaking with her subject, Noah Brier, after she had completed her research. And, although Brier told her he was OK with what she had done, his body language indicated that he wasn’t as comfortable as he claimed.

Hill was able to tell Brier something he didn’t know himself concerning his nearest and dearest—the value of his family’s Connecticut home, in which he grew up. And, her 28-year-old, media-savvy subject said, he was surprised that Hill was able to come up with his home address. However, his main focus, as he listened to Hill’s detailed account of what she had found out about him online, was accuracy—she’d missed a few things, and some information was outdated, he said.

As a result of her research about Brier, Hill writes in the article, she herself changed her social networking habits:

“I adjusted by more carefully curating my online persona. I took down accounts on Friendster and MySpace that I hadn’t updated in many months. I changed the privacy settings on my Facebook account. Though I accepted Facebook friend requests from strangers, I placed them in a category which gave them limited access to my profile—mainly restricting their access to view my photos.”

Meanwhile, for those who feel, as Hill says in the article she herself does, that too much information is too readily available online, law professor Daniel Solove of George Washington University, who is the author of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet, has some suggestions.

Among them: Make it illegal for employers to do Google searches and surf Facebook for information about job applicants without their permission, as is already required for credit and criminal background checks.

Updated June 16 to remove an assertion that the author had stopped soliciting Facebook friend requests on Above the Law.

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