Monday, November 28, 2016

A Champion for Privacy

One of my favorite quotes from The Social Network is, "The Internet's not written in pencil, Mark, it's written in ink." When we post something, it's not easy to make it go away. Even if you delete the content, there are many ways your content could be around for a very long time, such as sites that archive old web pages, and downloads and screenshots by users. So what happens when someone posts something of yours - a very private photograph - for the world to see, save, and share? And more importantly, who is the champion for that person who has had their privacy violated and their intimate life shared?

Enter Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn attorney whose practice specializes in sexual privacy, and who is fighting against what has become known as "revenge porn" - the most common example of such is sharing naked photos of an ex, but can also include sharing personal contact information and publishing ads on hookup services, purporting to be from the target, or recording and sharing illegal acts, such as sexual assault. And laws against these acts, known as nonconsensual porn laws, are also being used to charge people who steal private photos from people they don't know, such as in 2014 when Ryan Collins hacked into devices owned by Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities. Collins was sentenced to 18 months in jail for his crimes.

The article follows one of Goldberg's cases, but also includes lots of attention to Goldberg's stance on the issues, and her approach in working with her clients:
Goldberg tries to impress on her clients that they should not feel ashamed. I once asked her how she responds to the argument that people who value their privacy should not send naked pictures in the first place. Goldberg replied that this was judgmental and reductive. She mentioned the case of Erin Andrews, the former ESPN reporter, who was filmed, without her knowledge, by a man staying in an adjoining hotel room. “Are you just supposed to never take your clothes off?” she said. “You can’t get naked, you can’t take a shower?” She spoke of upskirting—the voyeuristic practice of taking unauthorized pictures beneath a woman’s dress. “Are you never supposed to go out in public in a skirt?” Goldberg said. “Or what about images where somebody’s face has been Photoshopped onto somebody else’s naked body? What’s getting distributed isn’t necessarily images that were consented to in the first place. That’s why it’s the distribution you have to focus on.”

Goldberg went on, “But, even if you did take a naked picture and send it to somebody, that’s not necessarily reckless behavior. That’s time-honored behavior! G.I.s going off to war used to have pics of their wife or girlfriend in a pinup pose. It’s often part of intimate communication. It can be used as a weapon, but, the fact is, almost anything can be used as a weapon.”
Legal scholar Danielle Citron, who wrote a book called Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, argues these invasions of privacy can be considered civil rights violations, because these attacks disproportionately affect women and minorities and can have long-term impacts on their personal and professional lives. In fact, in some of Goldberg's work with students who were victimized (or bullied because of the online content) at school, she files complaints with school offices for civil rights, as well as Title IX coordinators. Unfortunately, it seems these cases are only going to increase in frequency and severity:
And, since the election of Donald Trump, she says, she’s seen a “drastic uptick” in people seeking her firm’s help—evidence of what she worries is a “new license to be cruel.”
Please, readers, be kind to each other. And no matter how bad someone hurts you, be careful what you post online. If someone sent you private photos, it means they trusted you. Don't betray that trust.

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