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Consequences of FPP'ing a blog of someone in Iraq September 25, 2004 6:19 AM   Subscribe

I dislike it when friends of mine in Iraq are accidentally FPP'ed, when I know for a fact that they could potentially get in trouble for even having a weblog and depend upon "anonymity through numbers" to get away with it.

1> Could this link be fixed to point to the true link?

2> Can we establish some kind of method to quote/reference content that cannot, for security reasons, be linked to? Could a few trusted individuals, for example, check out sources/links of material privately?

For instance, I regularly read things in soldier's private journals that I cannot and will not link to because it could get the people in question into serious trouble. I would like to share such things, but if the links become public, then the sources face having their lives destroyed.
posted by insomnia_lj to Etiquette/Policy at 6:19 AM (128 comments total)

Can you explain the concept of "anonymity through numbers"?
posted by the cuban at 6:38 AM on September 25, 2004


In a target rich environment, the large amount of targets makes it harder to focus in on any given target. It's why herding animals herd.
posted by y2karl at 6:49 AM on September 25, 2004


If a soldier is posting under his first name and mugshot from Iraq, can he reasonably expect to remain anonymous just by using a blogging service that caters to wiccan teenyboppers?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2004


2> Can we establish some kind of method to quote/reference content that cannot, for security reasons, be linked to? Could a few trusted individuals, for example, check out sources/links of material privately?

The internet is a public place, and as such, if you decide to publish a live journal, people are going to see it. Maybe it shouldn't have been linked to Metafilter, but not for some nebulous "security" reasons. If you're concerned about your job because of what you post on the internet, well, then you shouldn't be posting things on the internet with your picture right next to it.
posted by SweetJesus at 7:06 AM on September 25, 2004


Yeah, and if you don't want to be raped you shouldn't be wearing sexy clothes. It never ceases to amaze me how "doing something that could open one to bad consequences" so automatically becomes "deserves whatever they get" around here.

It's very depressing to me that Postroad didn't even have the balls to apologize for his fuckup in that thread. I know he doesn't come to MetaTalk, but surely he drops by his own posts once in a while.
posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on September 25, 2004


Particularly when Livejournal affords users the ability to post privately, such that only their friends can see said entries.

Also, the guy doesn't even appear to be in the military. It looks like he's some sort of telecoms contractor, looking to cash in on lucrative government contracts during the rebuilding of Iraq. So it's not as if he has security clearance issues to deal with.
posted by Danelope at 7:19 AM on September 25, 2004


"if the links become public"

If? Such links are already public.

"they could potentially get in trouble for even having a weblog"

Then they shouldn't have one.

"depend upon 'anonymity through numbers' to get away with it"

"get away with it" Key phrase. They know what they are doing for whatever reason is wrong (as opposed to wearing sexy clothes, which is not wrong so that analogy does not hold), they hope to "get away with it", but then they don't. Thems the breaks, son.

As for Postroad, you are assuming that he reads the comments to his FPPs. That could be a mistake.
posted by mischief at 7:29 AM on September 25, 2004


"Doing something that could open one to bad consequences" implies either A) an understanding and acceptance of those consequences, or B) blatant ignorance of the ramifications. Neither option excuses you from bearing the brunt of the eventual outcome.

It never ceases to amaze me how accepting personal responsibility for one's actions is so frequently dodged "around here" ("here" being "the planet Earth".)
posted by Danelope at 7:35 AM on September 25, 2004



Yeah, and if you don't want to be raped you shouldn't be wearing sexy clothes. It never ceases to amaze me how "doing something that could open one to bad consequences" so automatically becomes "deserves whatever they get" around here.

It's very depressing to me that Postroad didn't even have the balls to apologize for his fuckup in that thread. I know he doesn't come to MetaTalk, but surely he drops by his own posts once in a while.


Why not bring Hilter into this, and end it right now? Talk about a false analogy...

Anyway, do not expect privacy on the internet. It was designed to be transparent and public, and anyone writing a fucking blog should know that. If you post something on the internet, and you have the crazy idea that only "certain" people will be able to see it, you're nuts. Security and privacy on the net are a thinly veiled illusion, and those who are technically savvy know this.

There's nothing wrong with writing a journal, but do it with some pen and paper, or Microsoft Word, or though email. Don't post it on the web if it's going to get you in trouble. At some point you have to take responsibility for what you do...
posted by SweetJesus at 7:53 AM on September 25, 2004


So it's not as if he has security clearance issues to deal with.

I wouldn't be so quick to say that. Civilians and contractors often have security clearances. I'm a civilian and I have one for my government contract work.
posted by SweetJesus at 7:55 AM on September 25, 2004


"you have the crazy idea that only 'certain' people will be able to see it"

This reminds me, I don't know why, of a friend of mine who told his spiteful exwife she could get cheap meth from him because he was running a lab out of his kitchen. Three days later, the cops raided his house.

Duh!!!
posted by mischief at 8:01 AM on September 25, 2004


I'm sorry, insomnia_lj, while I respect and admire your concern for your friend, from where I sit, you're making this request for anonymity to the wrong people. He's posting on LiveJournal, for heaven's sake - could there be a less private place to post one's thoughts on the Internet? He abandoned all pretense to privacy when he posted his picture there. Will a MetaFilter link increase the traffic to that site, and thereby increase his chances of "something bad" happening as a result of the increased attention? Almost surely. Is it a MeFites responsibility to not point out publicly posted content because the increased attention might mean "something bad" happens? I'm afraid I don't agree. Were I you, I'd simply advise my friend to remove from the LiveJournal account any and all identifying material - including his picture, which quite frankly, I can't imagine anyone posting to a LiveJournal if they were at all concerned with anonymity - and make sure my browser was set up schred the cache every time I logged out of it...
posted by JollyWanker at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2004


Yeah, and if you don't want to be raped you shouldn't be wearing sexy clothes. It never ceases to amaze me how "doing something that could open one to bad consequences" so automatically becomes "deserves whatever they get" around here.

Okay, I'm flat out fucking offended by an analogy as stupid and insulting as that.

Women are raped because someone else illegally and brutally forced themselves upon them, physically harming them and forcing them to do something against their will.

This guy made a public website. Someone posted a link to it.

Jesus. What the fuck is wrong with you?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:19 AM on September 25, 2004


Ditto XQUZYPHYR. Christ's hairy nutsack on a crutch, languagehat. As a lover of all things lingual surely you could choose some other words to illustrate your analogy?
posted by romakimmy at 8:43 AM on September 25, 2004


err, yeah. what the guy with bulging eyes who seems to have you pinned against the wall with his hands round your throat and feet kicking a little, several inches above the floor, just said.

or, more politely:
  • there is no such thing as a private public site
  • while many of us take safety in numbers, it's hardly the fault of the people linking if we get found out
  • instead, we should pressure those in power to be more tolerant of free speech
  • and really, a little reflection does show that this is not that similar to rape.
  • on the other hand, since those in power tend to be power-crazed morons, and not that amenable to persuasion, a little pragmatism would help. so fix the damn link already.

posted by andrew cooke at 8:44 AM on September 25, 2004


"So it's not as if he has security clearance issues to deal with."

Actually, yes. He does have security clearance issues to deal with. He's got more freedom to travel through US military bases than most people in the military have.

While you are right that his journal is "public", you are ignoring a few key factors:

1> His journal is intentionally not indexed by Google. That means that the only way that people can find it is either through word of mouth via friends... or by people outing his journal to the rest of the world.

2> Intent. He never intended his journal to have thousands of outside readers, and, as such, may choose not to have such a degree of exposure, especially on a post where a link to his site really isn't appropriate.

3> He has about 150 friends on LJ, most of whom know him IRL, and does nothing to promote himself or bring attention to his journal.

4> Simple consideration. If you want to link to his site, it may be a good idea to ask him if its okay.

There are hundreds of people in Iraq with weblogs, journals, diaries, etc. online. Most of them do nothing to bring attention to themselves, and use them to communicate with a handful of friends back home. They post openly, as they'd rather not be bothered by setting up closed/friend only journals and do not necessarily want complete privacy, but they also do not expect strangers to magically know to type in their "unlisted" URL either, or expect it to be linked (for no good reason) on MeFi either.

When you link to them without first asking them or taking their situation into consideration, you should do so on the assumption that you *WILL* get them into trouble. I have known several LJers already who have taken heat from their COs regarding their journals. One just had to delete theirs.

So basically, you're turning people who should ideally be anonymous sources into victims, hurting their lives, and hurting their careers. Go you. Way to support our troops.

I do believe in linking, sure... but I wouldn't link to anyone directly if I thought that there were alternative ways to do so that would both tell their stories *AND* not hurt them personally.

That is what I'm looking for here -- a way to use MeFi to share the knowledge of primary sources, people in the know, and whistleblowers, without burning the source. If your only concern is to burn said sources because...well... you can, then there won't *BE* any sources to link to soon enough.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:17 AM on September 25, 2004


And, if you're out in public, and you see a guy with a beautiful blonde, you shouldn't turn to your dinner companion and say "Hey, isn't that Bob?" Because it's possible that he's having an affair, and you should that into consideration.

What you don't know about Bob, is that he specifically chose a remote and out of the way public restaurant so that nobody he knows would see him while he's dinning with his mistress, and by pointing him out to your companion, then they'll tell their friends and they'll tell their friends, and before you know it Bob's wife will find out. You don't want to break up a marriage do you?

If you want to keep something private then put it behind a password. Even that won't work all the time, but if you're going to go out in PUBLIC then don't think that the virtual equivalent of an out of the way restaurant is going to keep your actions private.

He's not an anonymous source. He's out in public and VERY much on the record. Shouting at the top of your lungs is still shouting -- even if you think there's nobody around to hear you.
posted by willnot at 9:36 AM on September 25, 2004


insomnia - there is no public good argument here - if the public cannot be told about these sources then the same sources are not helping the public (all you're left with is sources for yet more rumours that the public cannot verify).
posted by andrew cooke at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2004


Man am I tired of hearing that we have a collective responsibility to protect individuals from their own stupidity.

Publishing something at a URL is an explicitly public act. The rest of the world should not be expected to shield publishers from this basic fact about life on the World Wide Web.

If someone wants to publish for a controlled, private audience, there are easy technical means for them to do so. If the person doesn't want to bother taking that simple step, then fuck 'em for not protecting their own lives and careers.
posted by rcade at 9:51 AM on September 25, 2004


thanks alot, willnot. I'm in hella trouble with my wife now.

insomnia: I don’t think your buddy tyler has a firm grasp on the concept of anonymity. If I wanted to remain anonymous I wouldn’t post my first name along with multiple pictures of my face from differing angles. You might want to clue him in on this.

also, am i the only one that thinks postroad needs to be banned for not responding to anything on the blue or on here? I don't know why matt has let him get away with it at all really.
posted by bob sarabia at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2004


and if you're seriously looking for a technical solution - they have to build a reliable anonymous identity. this means you need: a way of identifying the source consistently, a reputation, and an anonymous distribution channel. identification can be done with public key crypto (digital signatures), a reputation depends on the content history, and anonymous distribution is hard, given something like echelon (these people want to hide from the us military!).

it's a known problem with known (but partialy implemented) solutions. none of the solutions involve making a live journal site with your name and photo and only telling a few good friends. 'mkay?
posted by andrew cooke at 9:55 AM on September 25, 2004


1> His journal is intentionally not indexed by Google. That means that the only way that people can find it is either through word of mouth via friends... or by people outing his journal to the rest of the world.

This isn't google. Is Postroad one of these friends? How did he find out about it.

2> Intent. He never intended his journal to have thousands of outside readers, and, as such, may choose not to have such a degree of exposure, especially on a post where a link to his site really isn't appropriate.


On the internet, no one knows (or cares about) your intent. But aside from that, his intent is made clear where, exactly?

3> He has about 150 friends on LJ, most of whom know him IRL, and does nothing to promote himself or bring attention to his journal.


see above

4> Simple consideration. If you want to link to his site, it may be a good idea to ask him if its okay.

Or one might assume that, like 99.99999% of other internet users who don't in any way protect their site that he doesn't mind if it's public.

If he's posting something worthwhile, it was only a matter of time before people noticed it.

Besides, as you said in your first sentence, it was a freakin' accident. Are you just here to namedrop that you know this guy? As if we care.
posted by jpoulos at 10:00 AM on September 25, 2004


1> His journal is intentionally not indexed by Google. That means that the only way that people can find it is either through word of mouth via friends... or by people outing his journal to the rest of the world.

Heh, not really. Robots.txt is not a good way to hide things. For example, person A links to your friends website on a blog or whatever, Google will still index the links in person A's website. All that serves to do is obscure the link though one degree of separation. You're also trusting you're security to the ethics of some programmer, which is a horrible idea. If you're looking real security, use .htaccess and give the password to your friends.

Intent. He never intended his journal to have thousands of outside readers, and, as such, may choose not to have such a degree of exposure, especially on a post where a link to his site really isn't appropriate.

The internet can be a mean place. I'm not going to argue that the link should have been posted here, but if you were so concerned about these things getting out, why the hell would you post it on the internet? It doesn't matter what he intended, that's immaterial. Murphy's law, my man...

He has about 150 friends on LJ, most of whom know him IRL, and does nothing to promote himself or bring attention to his journal

Doesn't matter. If you put something on the internet, and you don't take some real steps to make it secure, you're inviting trouble. You can't blame the whole of the collective internet for taking something that was put out publicly, and then jumping on it because it's interesting. That's how the internet works.

4> Simple consideration. If you want to link to his site, it may be a good idea to ask him if its okay.

That's insane. I'm not asking permission to link to anyone. If you don't want to be linked to, don't post on the damn internet. There are no special rules for people who are in Iraq and have blogs, nor are there any special rules because you happen to know the people who publish it.

When you link to them without first asking them or taking their situation into consideration, you should do so on the assumption that you *WILL* get them into trouble. I have known several LJers already who have taken heat from their COs regarding their journals. One just had to delete theirs.

So basically, you're turning people who should ideally be anonymous sources into victims, hurting their lives, and hurting their careers. Go you. Way to support our troops.

There is NO annonimity on the internet. That needs to be taken into consideration before you post sensitive information with your picture next to it. It's not anyone's fault for linking to a public internet site (for fucks sake, it's Live Journal!), but the fault of the people who posted the information in the first place. I don't know how much more I can stress this. It would be awful if something happened, but your friend (or you, more accurately) need to realize that most people on the internet will not think twice about linking to something interesting (that's why the internet is so great, a collective web of cross-indexed information), and it's not their responsibility to cover your ass.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:01 AM on September 25, 2004


Can we establish some kind of method to quote/reference content that cannot, for security reasons, be linked to?

And that's just plain stupid and completely outside the bounds of this site. And you should know that.
posted by jpoulos at 10:02 AM on September 25, 2004


not indexed by Google

and the other 157 bots that crawl sites daily?

Go you. Way to support our troops.

fuck you and the troop support bandwagon you fell off of.
posted by quonsar at 10:09 AM on September 25, 2004


oh - and he's not one of "our troops". he's a "contractor", nee mercenary.
posted by quonsar at 10:11 AM on September 25, 2004


I would think twice before MetaFiltering something that could potentially get the blogger in trouble. Now, bloggers who post content that could be dangerous to them are stupid, but I can understand how they don't think many folks will see it, and are probably surprised when they enjoy a big spike. So yeah, I'd think twice, only because of the risk of catching them by surprise. I might - oh, I don't know - email the blogger first.

However, I'd also think twice before posting something dangerous to myself on my weblog. It can't be dangerous to me unless someone, somewhere cares about it, right? What if it gets MetaFiltered because people want to see/share it? hm.
posted by scarabic at 10:13 AM on September 25, 2004


Tell that to Jessica Cutler.

Hello? The word publish? To make public?




And, languagehat, who always seems so sensible, what the fuck?
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:34 AM on September 25, 2004


Not only does the robots.txt not matter, no matter how many crawlers you know about, but any lj is accessible from every page of the LiveJournal organization's site just by hitting "random" (under search in the menu bar). His site is indexed by the very place that hosts it, and to rely on security by obscurity is arguably even less wise in this case than it usually is.

Imagine how different this thread would be, had the request been "Yikes, my friend didn't intend this kind of readership, and this is giving him attention he never imagined. Yeah, yeah, but hey he's feeling a little stuck here. Can we change the link to go directly to the video in question?"
posted by caitlinb at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2004


"His journal is intentionally not indexed by Google. That means that the only way that people can find it is either through word of mouthvia friends...

Oh, you mean like this?

"Intent. He never intended his journal to have thousands of outside readers...

I have no idea of his intent -- then again, he put did put it up in a medium accessible by millions.

"He has about 150 friends on LJ, most of whom know him IRL...

And each of those 150 friends has 150 friends of their own. Do the math.

"Simple consideration. If you want to link to his site, it may be a good idea to ask him if its okay."

Nope. Not gonna happen. I'll link to whatever I damn well please and would advise those who don't want links to stay the fuck off my intarweb.

This is stupid. The guy posts on a public site and throws his picture up, then you come whining about someone daring to link to it.

My advice to your friend would be to password protect his site or not put it up on the web at all. I really couldn't care less if the guy gets in trouble, that ship sailed the second he put his words up in public. He could always just delete the site if it's proving to be a problem.

As far as that supporting the troops nonsense goes, blow it out your ass. The guy ain't a 'troop', he's just another guy with a weblog... anyway, isn't the point of weblogs to get attention?
posted by cedar at 11:38 AM on September 25, 2004


How bizarre. HTTP on the Internet is by default and convention, public. If you don't want it to be public, then you secure it from public access. This is not complicated.

This isn't at all like languagehat's absurd example, nor is it similar to someone hacking into a computer that's on the Internet. Some things are assumed private, like my house, and just because there's no lock on my door doesn't mean that you have a right to walk up and open the door and come in. Other things are assumed public, like a store or other obviously public building, and it's perfectly acceptable to assume that you're allowed to enter unless you have reason to believe otherwise. Most of the times that people hack into other computers on the Internet, they have reason to believe they're not supposed to be there. It's either implicitly not public, or it's implicitly public but with a sign saying "closed", or "restricted access".

A web page on the Internet is implicitly public. The end.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:44 AM on September 25, 2004


"they'd rather not be bothered by setting up closed/friend only journals"

"Rather not be bothered..." Woohoo! That's a good one! insomnia, your arguments are neither convincing nor practicable.

"am i the only one that thinks postroad needs to be banned for not responding to anything on the blue or on here?"

Of the few rules around here, I am fairly confident you won't find among them "mandatory response to criticism".
posted by mischief at 12:32 PM on September 25, 2004


I demand quonsar accounts for the welfare of his pant fish.
posted by Blue Stone at 12:47 PM on September 25, 2004


ome things are assumed private, like my house, and just because there's no lock on my door doesn't mean that you have a right to walk up and open the door and come in.

Here's an interesting fact: in Canada--I'm not sure about the U.S. but I think it's the same--if a door isn't locked it's perfectly legal to walk into somebody's house, sit on the couch, and watch some t.v. Since the door isn't locked they aren't "breaking" into the premises and if the prosecution can't prove that there's no criminal intent (stealing, vandalism, etc.) then it's not technically illegal. I'm not sure what the burden or proof would be, but that's the law as far as I know.

Vis a vis the livejournal in question: tell your friend to put a password on his site. I know for a fact livejournal offers this option, and if he's so concerned with keeping his anonymity, he can give out the password when he supplies people with the url. Everyone on the internet shouldn't have to adjust (and in the case of your suggestion, do extra work) just because your friend didn't bother putting a password on his "private" site.
posted by The God Complex at 1:28 PM on September 25, 2004


Sorry, if the prosecution can't prove that there is criminal intent (sorry for the small text, you pedants!
posted by The God Complex at 1:30 PM on September 25, 2004


and you forgot to close your brackets, too, you foul and evil bastard
posted by ZippityBuddha at 1:33 PM on September 25, 2004


insomnia_lj:
So basically, you're turning people who should ideally be anonymous sources into victims, hurting their lives, and hurting their careers. Go you. Way to support our troops.

[...]

That is what I'm looking for here -- a way to use MeFi to share the knowledge of primary sources, people in the know, and whistleblowers, without burning the source. If your only concern is to burn said sources because...well... you can, then there won't *BE* any sources to link to soon enough.


So basically, you are asking Metafilter to be an accessory to potential Espionage? You want Matt to stick his neck out and turn his carefully crafted best-of-the-web into a clearinghouse for highly questionable material relating to a controversial military action?
posted by b1tr0t at 1:44 PM on September 25, 2004


and you forgot to close your brackets, too, you foul and evil bastard

.
posted by The God Complex at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2004


HTTP on the Internet is by default and convention, public. If you don't want it to be public, then you secure it from public access. This is not complicated.

it is, however, arcane. perhaps if you quoted the RFC..?
posted by quonsar at 1:55 PM on September 25, 2004


i'ts not the same in the US - its trespassing.
posted by goneill at 2:17 PM on September 25, 2004


If you don't want people to read and link to something, don't post it on the fucking web! Arranging to have a server respond with confidential information to absolutely anyone in the world who emits a GET request is one thing; whining that your server does what you arranged for it to do is something else entirely.
posted by majick at 2:53 PM on September 25, 2004


an accessory to potential Espionage?

Oh, for pete's sake. Don't be absurd.
posted by ook at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2004


login, password? No?

As for Goole, as a million people have already said, Google indexes, period. If this guy's site does not get indexed directly, it will get indexed when somebody links to it. Learn the basics of how Google indexes sites first, to save you telling embarrassing fairy stories about it.
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:35 PM on September 25, 2004


Goole?
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:36 PM on September 25, 2004


Way to support our troops.

This makes me want to kick you in the shins.

A posts information in public. B points to what first guy posted. C calls D, E, and F unpatriotic because they looked.

Right.
posted by ook at 3:44 PM on September 25, 2004


Here's an interesting fact: in Canada--I'm not sure about the U.S. but I think it's the same--if a door isn't locked it's perfectly legal to walk into somebody's house, sit on the couch, and watch some t.v. Since the door isn't locked they aren't 'breaking' into the premises and if the prosecution can't prove that there's no criminal intent (stealing, vandalism, etc.) then it's not technically illegal.

I deeply, deeply doubt this is true. It sounds like a load of BS to me. Anyway, it's not true in any US jurisdiction I've ever heard of. You walk into someone's private residence without permission, locked or unlocked, door closed or open, you're at least trespassing and probably worse. It sounds to me like you or someone is taking "breaking and entering" far too literally.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:48 PM on September 25, 2004


It looks like it's Section 348 of the Canadian Criminal Code, concerning "Break and Enter". Unfortunately, I've not found a definition of "break". Some sources indicate—and this would match what I know about the US—that "break" can include opening a door. As far as the intent part is concerned, it does specify "criminal intent". Intent as an "out", however, is going to be problematic because a) I'm pretty sure that what is at least commonly thought to be trespassing is a situation where the burden of proof of no criminal intent would be on the trespasser, not the property owner; and b) if you're there without authorization, then how many things could you be doing that aren't criminal? And how many things that you actually do while you're there wouldn't be criminal? I'm not convinced that a prosecuter (or whatever you call that office in Canada) couldn't make a good case that watching that TV is theft or criminal in some other way.

The bottom line is that even if the law is written such that it appears that a person could legally do what you say they could do—open an unlocked door to a private residence, enter, and watch TV—in the real world there's not a chance in hell that arguing so would keep you out of jail.

And it shouldn't, because only small children don't know they shouldn't do such a thing.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:14 PM on September 25, 2004


XQUZYPHYR, romakimmy, and whoever else is terribly, terribly upset at my language: What the fuck is wrong with you? "She was asking for it" is the locus classicus of the problem I'm talking about here; it's like getting mad at someone for saying "Well, if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?" What, you think I'm trivializing rape? No, I'm trying to get people to take seriously the matter of burning people because they haven't taken every possible precaution to protect themselves. You think it's trivial if insomnia_lj's friend loses his job because of this? I'll bet he doesn't. Scarabic has the right take on it:

I would think twice before MetaFiltering something that could potentially get the blogger in trouble. Now, bloggers who post content that could be dangerous to them are stupid, but I can understand how they don't think many folks will see it, and are probably surprised when they enjoy a big spike. So yeah, I'd think twice, only because of the risk of catching them by surprise. I might - oh, I don't know - email the blogger first.

You'd think that would be a common response, but no, the common response is "That person didn't know how to protect themself, so fuck 'em! Who cares if they lose their job/marriage/life!" I guarantee you some of these people would take the exact same attitude if a post were about a woman getting raped (and probably have, if you trawl the archives). So no, I'm not going to apologize for my example. Sorry if it hurt your feelings.
posted by languagehat at 4:24 PM on September 25, 2004


Where your analogy goes badly wrong languagehat is that looking at something voluntarily put on public display by a person isn't in any sense a violation of that person. Raping someone is. It's disturbing that you would compare the two. You know my beliefs and my background, you know that I'm as opposed to "blaming the victim" as anyone.

The point isn't that someone could ir did get hurt. It's that the hurt won't or didn't come as the result of someone else's transgression. Looking at a public web page isn't a transgression. Linking to someone's public web page isn't a transgression. It's not.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:42 PM on September 25, 2004


lauguagehat: what on earth are you going on about?

"...burning people because they haven't taken every possible precaution to protect themselves."

Uh, no. There is a big difference between publishing yourself to the web and not taking precautions. Fuck, the guy burnt himself. We didn't put his words there and we didn't put his picture there. My advice to people wanting to 'protect themselves' is not to shout ,"HEY I WANT TO PROTECT MYSELF," from atop a LiveJournal soapbox. It just works better that way.

As far as the rape analogy goes, it's patently absurd. A rape victim is just that, a victim. This guy wasn't raped and isn't a victim. This guy stripped off his clothes in a public space filled with degenerates, drunks and bikers, laid down on the pool table with a tube of lube clutched in his fist and said, "C'mon. Show me what you got, fellows." Then, oddly enough, he got fucked.

Look at the original post, "...but if the links become public..." Right there we have a problem. The liogic fails, if there is a link it's already public. It becomes public by virtue of the link. If it wasn't public, there wouldn't be a link. What is so hard to understand about this?
posted by cedar at 5:17 PM on September 25, 2004


Yeah. The rape analogy is wrong not because of all the fancy details that cedar added, but just simply because of the fact that he gave consent. Putting a web page on the internet is consent for anyone and everyone to look at it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:26 PM on September 25, 2004


Yeah - I'd disagree with the rape and the private property analogies. The Internet is more like a public square, and your website is the equivalent of a billboard you can rent and decorate any way you want. You wouldn't then have any right or reason to be angry with people who came and looked at it, or who brought a crowd of their friends to come see it. If you don't want people to see your billboard, then you wrap it up and guard it and only show it to a selected few.

Insomnia, perhaps your friend doesn't understand what he's risking, or maybe he's just willing to take the risk, but either way, I think you would be wiser to discuss this matter with him, and tell him how to safeguard his site if he doesn't know how.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we do allow the house/private property analogy and accept that it is wrong for us to link to his site, it is better to set up a security system than to trust to the morality and consideration of millions of strangers, no?
posted by orange swan at 5:28 PM on September 25, 2004


I do see your point, and I don't think you need to apologize or anything, but I can't really get behind your rape/dress example, languagehat.

One makes a web page so that others can read it, and that's exactly what happened here. One puts on clothes so one can brave the elements, express one's fashion sense, and cover one's private parts. Getting raped is not the intended outcome of wearing a dress. People reading a web page is the intended outcome of publishing one. Controlling *which* people read a web page is what authentication systems are for. As far as I know, LJ does offer one. I guess this guy is wishing he'd implemented it. And I'm sympathetic to him, but it was his mistake.

I wouldn't say "fuck the guy," but I wouldn't say "fuck Postroad," either. Actually, I'm generally up for saying 'fuck Postroad" any old time. I'm not sure where that leaves me on this one...

/confused
posted by scarabic at 5:31 PM on September 25, 2004


It seems to me for the rape analogy to work -- i.e., linking = violation -- someone would have to have hacked the guy. If postroad made a private, password-protected site into a public site in order to link to it without the guy's consent, then okay, I'd be more inclined to go along with it. But he wasn't hacked; therefore, he wasn't violated.

I do agree that the private property analogy gets a little closer to it. If I ride my bike to work and then just lean it against the side of the building when I get there, I'd like certainly want it to be there eight hours later. However, the odds of the bike still being there when I want to ride home will improve rather dramatically if I actually lock it to a bike rack.

Or even more analagous perhaps: say I publish a small chapbook of very personal stories, with the intent of distributing only a few dozen to friends and family. I can't control what happens to each of those publications after they've been distributed. Some of them may get into the hands of people whom I specifically didn't want to read them. Some of them may wind up in the donation box to the Salvation Army, by which total strangers will then have access to all the details about how I lost my virginity to my high school boyfriend after a Ramones concert.* Doesn't matter. I published it. It's out there in the world.

In other words: don't want random strangers to take your bike? Lock it. Don't want random strangers to read about the time you lost your virginity? Don't publish a story about it. Don't want random strangers to read/link to your blog? Protect it.

*Note: actual virginity of scody not lost after a Ramones concert. Details have been fictionalized in order to befuddle my mother, in the extremely remote chance that she's discovered Metafilter and is reading all about her baby girl's personal life with increasing shock and horror.
posted by scody at 6:03 PM on September 25, 2004


pants fish are the future.
posted by quonsar at 6:04 PM on September 25, 2004


I believe that pants fish are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the pants fish laughter remind us how we used to be

posted by scody at 6:14 PM on September 25, 2004


The truth will out and there is no expectation of anonymity on the internet. If you have the guts to say it, have the guts to accept the consequences of saying it. Otherwise, cower in fearful silence, like most people do.
posted by rushmc at 7:33 PM on September 25, 2004


The God Complex, that is covered under sections 348 and 349 of the crimnal code:

348. (1) Every one who

(a) breaks and enters a place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein,
(b) breaks and enters a place and commits an indictable offence therein, or
(c) breaks out of a place after
(i) committing an indictable offence therein, or
(ii) entering the place with intent to commit an indictable offence therein,
is guilty
(d) if the offence is committed in relation to a dwelling-house, of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life, and
(e) if the offence is committed in relation to a place other than a dwelling-house, of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

...

349. (1) Every person who, without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on that person, enters or is in a dwelling-house with intent to commit an indictable offence in it is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or of an offence punishable on summary conviction.




Important to this is section 349. (2). Without that, yes, you're right. With it, it's up to the person charged to prove their innocence of the crime. ie: The person whose home was "invaded" must, at some point, had agreed to allow this person in.




349. (2) For the purposes of proceedings under this section, evidence that an accused, without lawful excuse, entered or was in a dwelling-house is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that he entered or was in the dwelling-house with intent to commit an indictable offence therein.




Furthermore, if you doubt their applicability to your case, Trespass to Land common law Tort is well defined in most provinces.

For example, in Ontario, we have the "Trespass to Property Act":




2. (1) Every person who is not acting under a right or authority conferred by law and who,

(a) without the express permission of the occupier, the proof of which rests on the defendant,
(i) enters on premises when entry is prohibited under this Act, or
(ii) engages in an activity on premises when the activity is prohibited under this Act; or
(b) does not leave the premises immediately after he or she is directed to do so by the occupier of the premises or a person authorized by the occupier,
is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $2,000. R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, s. 2 (1).




(shepd budget non-lawyer strikes again!)
posted by shepd at 8:09 PM on September 25, 2004


anonymity is highly overrated
posted by kamylyon at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2004


I think part of the issue here is that many of you in the weblog world are viewing journals with the same kind of ethical viewpoint -- they put the information out on the internet, therefore they want as many people to see it as possible.

There are major cultural differences with most journals, however. If you put info out there that is public, there is no assumed intent that you want everyone to see it. Rather, it is public because you want *SOME* people to see it with no barriers in their way.

If you are a soldier, for instance, you may want your mom, sister, or someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of the web to be able to log in and see your journal, so you send them a simple URL.

By and large, people who have journals go out of their way not to link to personal posts on other's journals without asking first. The reason is basically a matter of consideration and respect for privacy. Those who do link to other's personal journal posts without such consideration are often viewed as inconsiderate, meanspirited, or spiteful.

In this case, the "solution" for this guy (and for most of the soldiers out there who keep private journals) is to lock down his entire journal so schmoes like most of you will never get a chance to read it. Which is your loss, because you -- as a group -- are disinterested in encouraging the implementation of ways that would allow what these people say to be freely shared with you in a trusted manner.

For instance, I can share these posts from Iraq, but if you want some kind of way of trusting their validity... well, I'm sorry... there's no infrastructure for it short of f*cking over soldiers or accusing them of espionage, is there?!

... meanwhile, MeFi is *STILL* linking directly to my friend's journal on a FPP, even though it can potentially get him in trouble and the link is the wrong one for the article in question.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:47 AM on September 26, 2004


You've raised the issue at least, and I hope that more people will give this kind of situation more thought in the future, but there is no "ethical" discussion to have. If the consequences are as dire as you say, I'm really, really shocked that your buddy hasn't already pulled a curtain over his blog, or at least posted it without lots of identifying information about him. When someone is that "out-there" about who they are, they signal to others that they don't care about anonymity.

It would be nice if Matt would amend this link. Nice, not a long-overdue obligation.
posted by scarabic at 1:27 AM on September 26, 2004


In this case, the "solution" for this guy (and for most of the soldiers out there who keep private journals) is to lock down his entire journal so schmoes like most of you will never get a chance to read it.

Exactly. You seem to think that posting openly on the web is like talking on the telephone, when in reality it is like shouting in the town square.
posted by rushmc at 2:29 AM on September 26, 2004


More like jerking off in the belltower, I'd say.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:47 AM on September 26, 2004


Why doesn't he email it to everyone? You know, like everybody else does when they want to speak to their friends and family.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 5:30 AM on September 26, 2004


There are major cultural differences with most journals, however. If you put info out there that is public, there is no assumed intent that you want everyone to see it. Rather, it is public because you want *SOME* people to see it with no barriers in their way.

What ever made you think the burden of determining intent should be on the viewer instead of the publisher, i_lj? You're claiming that there is an entire body of web content that is actually not web content - how are we the viewers supposed to "know" what's web content and what isn't? When it's on one of a handful of free "publish your own web journal" sites? When it says "Dear Diary" at the top? This isn't even the equalivalent of leaving your notebook in a coffeeshop for the next patron to read - do I read it? do I not read it? - this is photocopying your notebook and pasting the pages all over the walls of the bus stop shelter. It's literally sitting out in public view, begging to be read by the next person who have five minutes to kill. Your devotion to your friend is, as I said before, admirable, but your continued insistence that there's this "web that's not a web because I didn't think any of the eighty million or so people with Internet access would actually read this" view just doesn't square with your usually far more rational approach here.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:26 AM on September 26, 2004


This guy stripped off his clothes in a public space filled with degenerates, drunks and bikers, laid down on the pool table with a tube of lube clutched in his fist and said, "C'mon. Show me what you got, fellows."

Um, I don't think so. Not unless I missed the part where he begged people to link to him on MetaFilter. He was just writing for his small readership, like most of us on our own sites. I think very few people are constantly watching what they say online, thinking "Would I be glad to have this read by everybody and his brother? What if it gets posted on MetaFilter? Better tone it down." That's just not the way people work.

But I'm perfectly happy to accept property-crime or any other analogies people prefer, so long as the basic fact is recognized that this person did not deserve to have bad things happen to him. Whatever gets that across is good. But alas, far too many people seem to think that if you put it out there at all, make it "public" (even if you expect only three or four people to read it), you're asking for it.

I know more than one person who likes to write but resists my encouragement to start a blog out of fear that it will somehow make them a public laughingstock. I tell them "don't be silly, only a few friends and relatives will ever look at it." But I'm starting to think that's irresponsible of me -- what if some asshole ran across it, saw something that struck him funny, and posted it with snarky commentary on MeFi (or Fark or whatever)? Yeah, I know, those are the breaks, it's like being struck by lightning, not very likely but has to be kept in mind. What bothers me is that so many around here would have no compunction whatsoever about joining in the fun, with no sense at all that they were doing something bad to another human being. The victim was, after all, "asking for it."

Bah, I've made my point too verbosely already, I'll shut up now. I just wish more people at least realized there was a problem.
posted by languagehat at 7:28 AM on September 26, 2004


...did not deserve to have bad things happen to him

I got that, and I agree with it, mostly. I wanted to deal with that essential point, and I found it very difficult to do so clearly, and I wrote and erased several things.

I guess the one thing I want to say on this matter, and I think it's very important because this comes up all the time in all sorts of situations, is that it's not the case that if there's an injury, there must be a villain with responsibility commensurate with the injury (or a villain at all). People tend to think that:

1) If someone's hurt, then someone hurt them, and someone is morally responsible for that hurt and they did a bad thing.

2) Moral responsibility is zero-sum (and it equals "1", the previous point). If we determine that person A isn't responsible for the hurt, and if there's only person B left, then B must be the guilty party.

3) This includes the case where person B is the person who suffered the hurt. Thus, the victim is blamed.

I won't deny anyone's moral responsibility for their actions, and for the responsibility they have for the results of their actions, and this includes people hurting themselves. But this guy's failing is a minor one, one of understandable ignorance. But it certainly is not a mistake commensurate with any harm that might result from it. Not anticipating his ignorance and trying to avoid any harm that would arise from it, is perhaps thoughtless of the person who linked to the blog, but that thoughtlessness is also not a very serious error, if it is one at all.

In the end, it may well be that the most serious responsibility lies upon the people that provide this service to naive customers without making it clear to them what this service really is, and means. In other words, insomnia_lj may have the gravest responsibility here (shared with everyone associated with LJ), and it's interesting that he/she would post a MeTa pointing the finger elsewhere.

Because the bottom line is that the web is a public bulletin board in a public space. There is no presumption of privacy, or limited availability. You can have those things, but you have to add them. It's not a medium where privacy is assumed and you have to go out of your way to make something public.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2004


I think part of the issue here is that many of you in the weblog world are viewing journals with the same kind of ethical viewpoint -- they put the information out on the internet, therefore they want as many people to see it as possible.

No, the issue is that by putting anything on the internet you're accepting the fact that it MIGHT be seen by a large number of people. Probably not, but you're accepting that consequence by posting it on a public forum. I don't mean to sound completely insincere, but like it or not your friend waived his right to privacy when he posted it for anyone to see. Prying eyes will be prying eyes and a community looking for interesting information may stumble upon it. That's not the fault of the community, it's the fault of the user.

Trying to gauge the intent of every writer on the internet before posting links is going to be an excercise in futility.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2004


Oh look, Yahoo News thinks women deserve to be raped.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:28 AM on September 26, 2004


greed drove giantlaser to war profiteering, narcissism drove him to livejournal, smug hubris regarding his superior approach to security will drive his vaporization, and this little tempest in a teapot is driving me to distraction.
posted by quonsar at 8:39 AM on September 26, 2004


meanwhile, MeFi is *STILL* linking directly to my friend's journal on a FPP, even though it can potentially get him in trouble and the link is the wrong one for the article in question.

have you emailed matt to explain and ask him to remove it, or is it his responsibility to check here every few hours, seven days a week, just in case one of his arrogant little mefites has a demand?
posted by jpoulos at 8:42 AM on September 26, 2004


meanwhile, MeFi is *STILL* linking directly

nope.
posted by quonsar at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2004


Personally, I believe the whole thread should be deleted.
The glating over the demise of the people shown in both video clips is utterly stomach churning. It's like gloating over a video of unidentifed persons in the US, or somewhere in Europe, running from a building and then getting killed.

There's no excuse. It's disgusting.
posted by tomcosgrave at 9:04 AM on September 26, 2004


smug hubris regarding his superior approach to security will drive his vaporization

Yeah, Giantlaser gives "some important information about why these men (the 3 hostages) were idiots" then goes on to outline his own security arrangements on a public forum.

Hope that turn round and bite him on the ass.
posted by the cuban at 10:07 AM on September 26, 2004


doesnt turn round
posted by the cuban at 10:17 AM on September 26, 2004


Guy posts sign in window, someone gets pissed that passersby read it. Film at 11. Actually, no film at all, ever.
posted by majick at 10:40 AM on September 26, 2004


I know more than one person who likes to write but resists my encouragement to start a blog out of fear that it will somehow make them a public laughingstock. I tell them "don't be silly, only a few friends and relatives will ever look at it." But I'm starting to think that's irresponsible of me ...

It is irresponsible of you to encourage people to publish for a global audience and pretending there are no privacy implications of that act. We're doing you a favor by explaining how the Web works. You should be thanking us.
posted by rcade at 11:20 AM on September 26, 2004


You know, I've been following this discussion since last night, and, what with all the philosophical and ethical arguments flying back and forth, my little brain is very confused. I simply fail to understand why the blog doesn't have a password. This whole discussion is moot if people who just want a limited audience to read their blog password-protect it. Even grandma and grandpa back home can handle putting in a password if they're already capable of getting on the internet. I know this point has been raised above before, so I guess I'm wondering why we're all still talking about what should be a non-issue.
posted by gokart4xmas at 11:32 AM on September 26, 2004


We're doing you a favor by explaining how the Web works. You should be thanking us.

Just in case anybody was wondering why MetaFilter is seen as a Land of Supercilious Jerks.
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2004


At the risk of rendering all of this irrelevant, someone made a comment on his LJ that he had been metafiltered and his response was
Oh dear. Here come the wave of new comments. :)
so I don't think he's all that concerned.

Should I have made that a link?
posted by sageleaf at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2004


Just in case anybody was wondering why MetaFilter is seen as a Land of Supercilious Jerks.

languagehat, you dragged this discussion into the gutter with your patently offensive analogy. Besides, some of us look at Metafilter as a Land of Thin-skinned Whiners who Can't Handle a Little Snark. Thanks for reinforcing that.
posted by jpoulos at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2004


Even the property theft analogy goes too far for me. If you leave your bike unlocked, you're greatly increasing the chances of it being stolen. But still, to steal it is a *crime,* not a lack of courtesy. To link a sensitive page without checking first is a lack of courtesy.

(or, if it is crime, I hope Postroad does time and relieves us of his Wacky Iraqy routine for a while).
posted by scarabic at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2004


"Oh look, Yahoo News thinks women deserve to be raped."

Please. The press obviously contacted and interviewed the people in question first, all of which had very public, rather promoted weblogs established first. Clearly, consent was granted.

And consent is the heart of the matter here. If there's any doubt about whether someone wants information on their journal fully public, it's nice to ask first. Just because it's out there, you can't assume that the person in question wants the high degree of attention you may be able to give them.

There is a difference between a personal journal with limited readership and a formal blog that goes out of its way to promote themselves in the larger blogosphere.

One of the things to note about privacy law, is that the standards of what is legal and illegal depend upon whether you are a celebrity or not. If the media intrudes into a regular citizen's life, they do so only if there is a strong public interest / need to know, otherwise they risk violating privacy law... whereas for celebrities, the standards are far lower. Oftentimes, even when the media does dig deeply into private citizen's lives, they still often don't reveal the identity of the person in question, or they reveal it as being from an anonymously named source.

In that sense, the media protects the privacy of individuals to a degree far greater than that of people on MetaFilter. The reason is clear -- you don't want the added risk of lawsuits, and you don't want to burn sources of information that may have more information for you in the future.

I don't believe in burning sources either, especially if it ruin and potentially jeopardize people's careers and lives.

I think it's an asshole thing for quonsar to say:
"greed drove giantlaser to war profiteering, narcissism drove him to livejournal, smug hubris regarding his superior approach to security will drive his vaporization"

First off, Giantlaser was making plenty before he went to Iraq. Money (and certainly not comfort) wasn't the big motivator for him to work in Iraq. Rather, it was a question of wanting to be there, wanting to help the Iraqi people and to help build their economy. I've seen this guy mourn the death and curse the pain that his Iraqi co-workers are going through at times.

As for why he has a LJ, it's for two main reasons -- one, so his friends can stay in touch with him and know what is going on in his life, and two, so that he has a record for himself of his life and his thoughts. He started an LJ at his friend's request long before he went to Iraq, and had another on a different site prior to that. Narcissism wasn't the driving force, however, nor did he try to promote his journal widely.

For instance, you don't see banner ads asking for donations to fund his journal (greed), a huge blogroll, links to his GeoURL, his technorati profile, a link to find what people are saying online about his journal (narcissism), or banner ads designed to promote his journal (hubris)... 'cause that would mean he deserved it, eh Quonsar?

And lastly, Giantlaser's security procedures were secure enough until someone linked to them on a major website, arguably jeopardizing not only his career, but his life.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to send an email to Giantlaser and let him know what happened. He's a bit busy, you see... and I really didn't want to explain to him what happened until the link was changed.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:19 PM on September 26, 2004


Giantlaser's security procedures were secure enough until someone linked to them on a major website

security by obscurity is not security
posted by pyramid termite at 12:29 PM on September 26, 2004


There is a difference between a personal journal with limited readership and a formal blog that goes out of its way to promote themselves in the larger blogosphere.

No, there isn't.
posted by jpoulos at 12:55 PM on September 26, 2004


"security by obscurity is not security"

Yeah, yeah. I know that argument. I also know that there are plenty of times -- even on major open source apps -- where news of security problems in software is limited to only a few people while it is being fixed. Why? Because it's the best way of dealing with such problems. Even open source doesn't always follow its own rules, for reasons of security and practicality.

By your argument, if I knew the identity of CIA agents working in the field, it would be okay to reveal who they are and what methods they use to protect their communications and anonymity because that would ultimately make them more secure.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:03 PM on September 26, 2004


insomnia_lj ... i didn't make an argument ... i told you the bare truth ... giantlaser's site is not secure ... proof of that is this thread ... rather than blame the general public for what you feel is a lack of discretion, it would be better if he came up with a security method that actually works, something based on reality, not wishful thinking
posted by pyramid termite at 1:12 PM on September 26, 2004


"There is a difference between a personal journal with limited readership and a formal blog that goes out of its way to promote themselves in the larger blogosphere."

No, there isn't. They are both the same and the majority of 'formal' blogs started out as obscure journals. Then they wrote something compelling and other people linked to them... sound familiar?

Are you being intentionally obtuse or are you truly unable to see the distinction between a private journal and a, for lack of a better term, a 'live' journal. From the user info page: "...you can edit your information (or choose what information is considered public)". They also offer the ability to protect individual entries. Your friend has chosen not to avail himself of this option... it seems to me that considering the guy posts his security arrangements in public, he isn't half as concerned as you are.

The community he is a member of makes the policy clear: "For this reason, all non-public posts should be viewed as private and protected correspondence, and should not be revealed in any way to any other person without prior approval... Since insideiraq is "invite only", making a post that is "friends only" should give you a lot of privacy, as it will only be readable by those who are in the community itself. That said, if there is something that you are thinging of posting to this community that might really get you in trouble, please think twice about whether you really want to post it."

As best I can tell his posts aren't 'friends only' (I can read them). His options are clear but yet he has chosen to leave everything public.

"arguably jeopardizing not only his career, but his life."

Yeah, clearly this is anyones fault but his own. Here's a thought, why don't you hold back a little bit on the melodrama and suggest to your friend that he edit that user info a bit and step up his anononymity. He may also want to avoid discussing he and his wifes security arrangements and schedule in a public place.

I case could be made that you, with an ill-advised MeTa post and your insistence on arguing a ridiculous and nonexistant right to privacy have done more to make this public than a short-lived and pretty much neglected post in the blue. Since nothing has changed and he is aware of this link (as per his comment, "Oh dear. Here come the wave of new comments," it's clear your mostly blowing smoke out your ass. i'm curious, why are you so anxious to protect someone who has no interest in being protected? The guy is a contractor in Iraq who spends his days traveling in heavily armed motorcades, I'm thinking he can take of protecting his own privacy if he sees the need.
posted by cedar at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2004


"security by obscurity is not security"

I think the problem in this thread is that most people are taking the attitude of "oh he didn't know that? too bad for him, glad we can teach him how the internet works..."

I wouldn't debate that the internet works this way. But I doubt most of the world realizes this, and it isn't their fault that they don't. The proper attitude towards these people does not seem to me to be "those ignorant fools". I don't think the real issue here is even whether its this guy's fault that his journal is now very public (assuming he even cares, on preview). It's about our politeness, and collectively, we seem to have very little.
posted by advil at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2004


I'm sorry ... I have to chime in. I can't help myself.

As for why he has a LJ, it's for two main reasons -- one, so his friends can stay in touch with him and know what is going on in his life, and two, so that he has a record for himself of his life and his thoughts.

Which is the exact reason I've been keeping an LJ since 2000 in addition to my actual domain. It's an easy way for me to make truly personal posts that I want to be read by a select group of people and which won't show up in search engines or posted on other people's sites or run across by people just out randomly surfing Friends pages (which is how things spread over there). Every time I make a post to LJ, right there at the bottom of the post page, there is the option to make it Private (readable only by myself), Friends Only (readable only by people I have listed as friends) or Public (open to the whole damn universe). You can even break it down further and specify WHICH friends can read it if you choose to make it a Friends Only post and use the Friends Group options ... say I want to talk about something that happened with Person A with Persons B through G without Person A knowing what I am saying. It's a great system for distributing information in a controlled way. I know exactly who is able to see what at all times, and I don't have to muck about with multiple passwords as my domain for various groups of people.

If you post something publicly to the internet, you can't fault the individual who finds it and thinks it's interesting enough to share unless you have at least attempted to make it private.
posted by Orb at 1:24 PM on September 26, 2004



And lastly, Giantlaser's security procedures were secure enough until someone linked to them on a major website, arguably jeopardizing not only his career, but his life.


Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

He had no security procedures; he had a publicly accessible website.

If he's posting information in public that could jeapordize his career and his life, then that's his fault, not the fault of the people who read what he posted in fucking public. I seriously can't believe you're continuing to make this argument.
posted by ook at 1:29 PM on September 26, 2004


And lastly, Giantlaser's security procedures were secure enough until someone linked to them on a major website, arguably jeopardizing not only his career, but his life.

You deeply misunderstand the situation, insomnia_lj. Giantlaser has thrown his life, career, and the safetey of his fellow workers and soldiers into jeopardy by posting security details to a website as public and popular as LiveJournal. Anyone can read a public livejournal and they do.

on preview, what ook, cedar, and many others said.

advil: I don't think the real issue here is even whether its this guy's fault that his journal is now very public (assuming he even cares, on preview). It's about our politeness, and collectively, we seem to have very little.

The problem is exactly that it is Giantlaser's responsibility to be aware of whether he is posting to a public or private medium. What is shocking is that so many people here want to tell him "hey, its no big deal, not many people read your blog anyway." When he is dragged in front of a military court, he may wish that he had received a stern warning earlier.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:41 PM on September 26, 2004


For instance, you don't see banner ads asking for donations to fund his journal (greed), a huge blogroll, links to his GeoURL, his technorati profile, a link to find what people are saying online about his journal (narcissism), or banner ads designed to promote his journal (hubris)... 'cause that would mean he deserved it, eh Quonsar?

nope. i see an asshole with multiple clownish images of himself gloating about how fucking smart he is to have not been kidnapped and beheaded so far.

by the way, you mentioned the banner ads twice, blort is hardly a journal and barely a blog, and there isn't a single image of me anywhere on it, i'm unaware of any link to 'what people are saying online' about blort, and the fact that you'd compare it to giantlasers lj indicates you are unsophisticated enough to equate a bazooka joe comic with someone's personal correspondence because, after all, they were both produced using ink. which in turn explains why you are so confused about the function, purpose and consequences of the public internet.
posted by quonsar at 2:22 PM on September 26, 2004


WTF, insomnia??? I just read sageleaf's comment above. It sounds like your friend doesn't care at all that he's been linked on MeFi. Please tell me that you checked with him about his preferences before you started this massive uproar and started accusing people of putting lives in danger.
posted by gokart4xmas at 3:19 PM on September 26, 2004


And lastly, Giantlaser's security procedures were secure enough until someone linked to them on a major website, arguably jeopardizing not only his career, but his life.

This is an excelent example of making the opposite point from the one you want to make. Hilarious, in fact! It's like saying "well, my toilet-paper handcuffs were strong enough until the suspect flexed his arms."

As we used to say in junior high: doi. Really. At this point, you're just blathering on, insomnia, despite numerous good counter-arguments as well as compromises. You've raised awareness, but your outrage is out of place. You're obviously biased toward your friend's interests. Stop trying to preach logic when you're livid.
posted by scarabic at 3:31 PM on September 26, 2004


insomnia, you probably think I'm going off on some wild tangent here, but please bare with me, for as irrelevant as the following question may seem to you, it does in fact have striking relevance to your friend's problem of website security (or lack thereof) : what is your general opinion on password protected web-pages?
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2004


And consent is the heart of the matter here. If there's any doubt about whether someone wants information on their journal fully public, it's nice to ask first.

It's on the internet, without any restrictions. That is fully public. If your thin excuse for the rape analogy is "consent," then you absolutely have no ground to stand on. Unless Matt secretly has a collection of 35,843 signed consent forms from the owner of every website linked to from here, then I fail to see how there's any argument for "not getting someone's permission" to post a URL save for the fact that you happen to know the guy.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:34 PM on September 26, 2004


insomnia, your new arguments are just as unconvincing and unpracticable as the former.

I can understand a site not wanting deep-linking (to some extent), but asking permission to link to a main page like a blog? No way. That completely goes against the basic intent of developing the Web in the first place.
posted by mischief at 6:01 PM on September 26, 2004


Anyway, Matt has changed the link. I think it's perfectly reasonable for someone to say "Uh, I'm uncomfortable with the exposure I'm getting on MetaFilter, can you remove the link please?"

Ideally, they would learn a lesson in the process.

Of course, one of the best things about MeFi is was you can could sign up (reasonably anonymously) and post interesting items. This is one more way new user signups would be useful.
posted by scarabic at 6:25 PM on September 26, 2004


please bare with me

Space Cadet, I really think insomnia would be uncomfortable with that kind of exposure too.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 PM on September 26, 2004


"what is your general opinion on password protected web-pages?"

If someone wants to password protect their website, that's perfectly ok if that's the kind of protection they feel they need. That said, there is something lost when everyone does it... or when the lack of consideration from site visitors is so bad out there that everyone feels that they have to do it.

On a similar tangent, I've watched the growth of LJ over the years, and it's sad to see that so many people have made their journals "friends only". When you make gated communities, you shut out the good things as well as the bad. Unfortunately, it's often necessary because you can have the posts you make fall into the hands of enemies / co-workers / parents / whathaveyou. LJers used to not be prey to as much general abuse as they are nowadays, in large part because LJ's abuse dept. has fallen apart due to poor oversight.

And yes, I realize that if Giantlaser doesn't secure his journal 100%, he can have real problems. Yes, if his journal is public, others can read it, and even link to it... and yes, I know that it can get him into trouble. He knows that too, and knows the risks.

That said, I also know that *I'm* not going to be the one who gets him into trouble, and I'm going to do what I can to share what he -- and many others in Iraq -- have to say to people about their situation, only I'm going to do it in ways that protect their anonymity, their jobs, and their lives as much as possible.

I also believe that MetaFilter is a site of generally well-intentioned people that -- despite it's philosophical stance on things like security through openness or the need to link to the rest of the web being essential -- also would prefer that what they do as individuals not harm others. Maybe it's just me, but I believe that philosophical / technological / political arguments mean very little if they lead you to harm another person when you had other acceptable alternatives.


I'm not saying "don't link to weblogs"... or "don't link to journals". I'm simply saying that in the interest of kindness, privacy, and common courtesy, there are times when you should consider getting to know the person in question, asking questions, and finding out what they think about having MeFi/Slashdot levels of lovin' before you inflict it on them. Do it on a judgement call basis for that one-in-a-hundred circumstance where you feel it might make a difference. You won't regret it. You may even start up a conversation and find yourself invited further into their life, if they believe you can be trusted to be there.

(BTW, what did you all think about Giantlaser's latest "friends only" post from Baghdad? Kind of omenous, wasn't it?!)
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:13 PM on September 26, 2004


I think very few people are constantly watching what they say online, thinking "Would I be glad to have this read by everybody and his brother?

Anyone who doesn't is a fool.
posted by rushmc at 8:21 PM on September 26, 2004

"I think very few people are constantly watching what they say online, thinking 'Would I be glad to have this read by everybody and his brother?'"

Anyone who doesn't is a fool.
That's very true, especially in the Google age. Most probably don't realize this, though. Should it be this way? Dunno. But it is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2004


Wouldn't this all have gone over better if this MeTa callout had been something more like the following?

"Due to the sensitive nature of their profession, military folk face even more scrutiny and repercussions from blogging about their work than the rest of us. Since we'd all like to know more about what's going on on the ground in Iraq, especially sensitive stuff that higher-ups may not want us to see, let's preserve the cover of military bloggers by posting the content they link to, *instead of* linking to them and their blogs. The less attention we call to them and their blogs, the more information they can extend to all of us. Emailing them before posting their stuff isn't a bad idea. At least think twice about your post before you submit it. Once you're discharged, you're done. You can't just get another job. And you may find yourself up on charges that the 1st ammendment can't protect you from."
posted by scarabic at 10:06 PM on September 26, 2004


I have a lot of things I've written in my blog and thought twice about before posting.
Most of the time if I have to think before hitting post, I save it as a draft to look at later. Then if I still think it's worthy/non-incriminatory/non-flaming-to-my-family I'll go ahead and post it.
Luckily that way it doesn't show up on the front page but on the date that I originally entered it!

If I didn't want people to see what I'd written, I wouldn't have a blog.
posted by kamylyon at 10:28 PM on September 26, 2004


Actually, does anyone know if the military can force LJ to give someone up? Perhaps there is no cover except total obscurity.
posted by scarabic at 10:36 PM on September 26, 2004


As this discussion has taken place, our alleged victim has acknowledged the MetaFilter link and hasn't changed a word on his site. He links to 150 other LiveJournal diarists, has joined a community of diarists in Iraq, and links to his personal site, which identifies his full name, U.S. address, and U.S. phone number in WHOIS. None of which suggests someone who is concerned about the privacy of his completely public Web site.

At what point does reality intrude on the discussion of the unspeakable danger we've placed this guy in?

Just in case anybody was wondering why MetaFilter is seen as a Land of Supercilious Jerks.

Following up your tasteless and unhinged rape analogy with a personal attack really helps your argument, languagehat.
posted by rcade at 6:10 AM on September 27, 2004


insomnia, what you suggest is the complete overthrow of how the world uses the web. You might as well try to convince the people of the United States to start driving on the left.
posted by mischief at 7:00 AM on September 27, 2004


rcade: If you don't want to be perceived as a supercilious jerk, I suggest you not write things that look exactly like the kind of thing that would be written by a supercilious jerk. To be specific, here's what you wrote: "We're doing you a favor by explaining how the Web works. You should be thanking us." You are claiming I don't understand how the Web works. Nothing I have said justifies that. I was saying that other people I know are afraid to put their writing online, and that I was starting to think I should discourage rather than encourage them. This has nothing to do with understanding how the Web works; it has to do with risk estimation. Do you urge people not to drive because a lot of people get killed doing it? Probably not. It seems to me the risk of a particular person having their little website hauled up for the delectation of millions is considerably lower than the risk of getting killed in an auto accident, or even of getting into an auto accident at all. That's the reason I had been encouraging people to start blogs; now, however, seeing the number of assholes people whose attitude toward life is deeply repugnant to me who think there's nothing wrong with exposing a blog to a larger audience because "it's public," I'm reconsidering, because I seem to have misunderestimated the quantity of assholes such people out there.

I hope I've explained the matter to your satisfaction, but if it's still confusing to you, let me know and I'll say it more simplerly.

Best,

LH
posted by languagehat at 11:10 AM on September 27, 2004


they walk right past you
they stop and stare
your body's lying
all over there
posted by angry modem at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2004


By and large, people who have journals go out of their way not to link to personal posts on other's journals without asking first.

That is so full of bullshit. Ask any of the long term journalers, the ones who were around since before everyone and his brother had a weblog. Google for Open Pages webring, it has a lot of the earliest journals still listed on it.

Everyone linked to everyone else, especially when there were a couple of hundred journals out there. Very few people ask if it is okay to link as by putting it out there it is out there.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2004


languagehat my friend, you asserted:

This has nothing to do with understanding how the Web works...

then you went on to opine:

... [people who] think there's nothing wrong with exposing a blog to a larger audience because "it's public".

see, the second statement just screams out that you really DON'T get how the web works, and that really IS the whole point.
posted by quonsar at 3:29 PM on September 27, 2004


Maybe it's just me but I find the fact that a discussion on privacy - especially the privacy of a member of a military unit - goes on without so much as a mention that the video in the post in question shows people being killed by a member of a military unit as though they were fish in a barrel.

Frankly, when those people had their lives ended just like that, when the means by which they died were military in origin, the fact that it's being ignored is beyond fucked.

Quite possibly, this is the most disturbing MeFi thread in the history of the site.
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2004



Quite possibly, this is the most disturbing MeFi thread in the history of the site.


Ditto...
posted by SweetJesus at 4:25 PM on September 27, 2004


q, my friend: But I DO get how the web works; I'm not questioning the fact that it's public, I'm questioning (harshly) the idea that because the people who put their silly little blogs out there in public don't understand all the ramifications like the extremely knowing geeks here on MeFi, they deserve whatever they get. To me, a civilized response is along the lines of "Tsk, too bad the poor unfortunate didn't realize the public nature of anything posted on the Web and got burned. Someday they'll learn." An uncivilized response is along the lines of "HAH-hah! Look at the dumbass! Sucker!! lolol" And MeFi is far too uncivilized for my liking. But maybe someday it will grow up.

Note that this has nothing to do with the case at hand; if insomnia_lj's friend in fact doesn't care about the attention, that's all to the good, but it doesn't change the fact that the general culture of MeFi is self-absorbed and indifferent to the sufferings of anyone not perceived as One of Us.

Now take that fish out of your pants!
posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on September 27, 2004


I dig where you're coming from, hat, but it really isn't a matter of requiring extreme knowledge, or being part of an exclusive club. You publish on the web, people can read you. That's what you're going to all that effort of publication for. Hoping mightily that the world will constrain its actions (like, say, linking) -- and then acting surprised when it doesn't -- in a particular way is certainly naive, but it's also the height of arrogance. People react negatively to arrogance.

That said, yeah, I do see where you're coming from.
posted by majick at 5:56 PM on September 27, 2004


languagehat, I think you overreacted. I don't think anyone here (except maybe quonsar :-)) wants to see someone lose their job, or worse, because of something posted here. If people reacted coolly, I think it was to insomnia_lj (who came off as a bit arrogant about the whole thing, and who, if he was concerned about his friend's security, should have discussed it with his friend) and not toward the blogger in question.

Re-read the first couple of comments in the thread. The only one that can be construed as "he got what he deserved" is SweetJesus's, but I'm not sure that's what s/he was really saying. If you read a snarky attitude into it, you might construe it as "he got what he deserved", but what s/he says is, on its face, fairly common sense.

There's more or less consensus in here that it is not the audience's responsibility to gauge the intent of a blogger, and that keeping one's site safe from prying eyes is the duty of the site's owner. There's a difference between arguing that the internet is a public place, and one shouldn't have to ask permission before linking, and arguing that people "deserve what they get". If some of us were a little nasty to insomnia_lj, it was likely because he came off as a bit of a prick. If some of us were nasty to you, we may have taken offense to your rape analogy--or maybe because you made the rather unpopular argument that anyone who linked to a small personal journal site was an "asshole".
posted by jpoulos at 6:08 PM on September 27, 2004


the idea that because the people who put their silly little blogs out there in public don't understand all the ramifications like the extremely knowing geeks here on MeFi, they deserve whatever they get.

Well, yeah, languagehat that would be a little harsh. I appreciate the fact that you're sticking up for this military blogger and don't want to see him cast into the void for being a stupid peon who dared too much. I agree with you. But bear in mind the actual flow of conversation.

1) original meta callout makes not-linking sound obvious
2) insomnia_lj calls for a change in behavior, on behalf of his friend
3) people tell insomnia_lj he's wrong and stupid for #1 and #2

I don't see anyone here jeering at the blogger, or deliberately reveling in his potential ill fortune. While a lot of people did throw up their hands and opine that the blogger invited his fate, most of the cruel attitude that's upset you here is directed toward insomnia_lj, in response to the "DUH" tone of the callout. I don't see a lot of naked animosity focused on the blogger who brought us this amazing link. Some cringes. Some shaking of heads. But: "the fucker deserved it!" I'm not seein' it.

I'm sure you could list an exception or two to that, but do you see what I'm saying? If anyone was cruelly disembowled here, it was insomnia_lj. And frankly, if you're going to stroll into MeTa to tell people how it's done, you do deserve whatever you get. oh, I know
posted by scarabic at 9:29 PM on September 27, 2004


I didn't enjoy the fact that Dooce got fired for blogging, nor would I revel in Giantlaser getting in job trouble (or worse) for revealing so much on his Iraq weblog.

It's like knowing someone who always rides a motorcycle without a helmet. That's a dumb thing to do and can easily get you killed, but no one would say they deserve for the worst to happen.
posted by rcade at 6:04 AM on September 28, 2004


OK, maybe I overreacted. But I offer thanks to those who made a point of saying they saw where I was coming from; if we had more of that kind of qualification around here, we might have fewer flame wars. Not that it's any excuse, but I've been hellishly overworked lately and don't have a dog to kick, not that I'd kick him if I did, poor little fellow, so my legendary patience, goodwill, and bonhomie may be losing a few steps. The worst should be over this week.

That said, I hate you all ZIPPITY-BOP!
posted by languagehat at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2004


Re-read the first couple of comments in the thread. The only one that can be construed as "he got what he deserved" is SweetJesus's, but I'm not sure that's what s/he was really saying. If you read a snarky attitude into it, you might construe it as "he got what he deserved", but what s/he says is, on its face, fairly common sense.

I'm not saying "he deserved what he got", but I am saying that if you put something out on the internet, understand that the world will be able to see if, wether this is your intention or not. There's not going to be a committee somewhere deciding if the link will become "public" or not. It's already public, and even if you password protect it, it can still come out one way or another. This absolutely needs to be understood if you're posting information that could get you in trouble.

I used to have a blog, like four or five years ago, where I would talk about my job, and it was fine. I never posted anything that was sensitive, but that's because the nature of my job wasn't sensitive. Now I work as a government contractor, and I don't have a blog, because it's just too much of a fine line about what I feel is ok to say and what might get me trouble. I find that the risks out weigh the benefits, so I don't have one. If, however, I did start writing again and something happened, the blame would be on me, because I should know what I can and cannot write in public. This guy, if he's a contractor too, should know exactly what he can and cannot say in public.

To be honest, most of what I was objecting to was I-LJ's overblown rhetoric, the idea that some URL's are "unlisted", and other misconceptions of how the internet works...
posted by SweetJesus at 11:07 AM on September 28, 2004


Frankly, when those people had their lives ended just like that, when the means by which they died were military in origin, the fact that it's being ignored is beyond fucked.

Agreed.
posted by homunculus at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2004


I'm questioning (harshly) the idea that because the people who put their silly little blogs out there in public don't understand all the ramifications

"Tsk, too bad the poor unfortunate didn't realize the public nature of anything posted on the Web and got burned. Someday they'll learn."

OMG, the patronizing, self-congratulatory tone positively REEKS in those (and other) statements. You really need to examine your attitude, methinks. Championing the "poor dumb helpless folk" who dare to try to use the net is not reflecting well upon you...
posted by rushmc at 2:39 PM on September 28, 2004


"...fact that it's being ignored is beyond fucked."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I followed the link when it was posted, saw some typical bloggy-looking stuff that didn't interest me, and backpaged right back to MeFi. I had no idea what the content was on the blog. I was involved in this discussion only in the context given in the MeTa post.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:11 PM on September 28, 2004


Well, rushmc, unlike (apparently) you, I actually know people who use the net and yet are not infinitely knowledgeable geeks like the majority of MeFites. This may influence my attitude. Ignorance is always so helpful to a consistent, forthright attitude. And kudos for getting the hostile atmosphere back on track! Things were getting way too cuddly in here.
posted by languagehat at 6:17 PM on September 28, 2004


You really play the champion of the downtrodden thing to a hilt, languagehat. You're going to be the first person in history to get carpal tunnel syndrome from patting himself on the back.
posted by rcade at 6:26 AM on September 29, 2004


Kudos to you too, rcade. You and rushmc can fight over who's the prouder jerk. I'm off to deal with my carpal tunnel.
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on September 29, 2004


unlike (apparently) you, I actually know people who use the net and yet are not infinitely knowledgeable geeks like the majority of MeFites.

My issue isn't with these sorts of people, but with your characterization of them.
posted by rushmc at 10:25 AM on September 29, 2004


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