Should ISPs Be The Decision Makers On Giving Up Your Anonymity?
from the not-their-role dept
We’ve been staying out of the big Wikipedia debate lately, because it really seems like the same old thing. Some information in Wikipedia is false, even malicious, and it can be changed by anyone. That’s not new — and every time someone discovers it, it doesn’t make it new again. However, in this case, the angry individual, John Seigenthaler, is now rumored to be using his case to push for legal changes, whose unintended consequences could be pretty extreme. Seigenthaler’s big issue in this story is that he traced the writer of a malicious and false bio of himself to a BellSouth account — but BellSouth, respecting that user’s privacy, won’t give out his info. At this point, there are a few different options: (1) forget it and not worry about it (2) change the Wikipedia entry to be a lot more accurate or (3) completely change our legal system to put the burden on ISPs to judge by themselves whether or not someone has done something so egregious that they no longer have a right to privacy. It appears Seigenthaler has chosen option three. As Ross Mayfield points out, this opens up a number of bad doors: it puts the cost on the ISP (something they were promised wouldn’t happen when they agreed to the DMCA a decade ago) and, most importantly, “privatizes governance and enforcement.” Why is it that a private entity gets to decide whether or not you’ve done something that reduces your right to privacy? This shifts the burden away from the accuser (where it belongs) to both the accused and the middleman — which would set a very bad precedent.