Colette Vogele & Erica Johnstone, Without My Consent
Comment by: Christopher Wolf
Workshop draft abstract:
Without My Consent is a web-based project to combat online invasions of privacy: http://www.withoutmyconsent.org/
It’s no secret that the use of private information to harm a person’s reputation through public humiliation and harassment of the most intimate sort is an increasingly popular tactic employed by harassers. Some examples include: the nightmare ex who posts sexually explicit photos and videos online or threatens to do so; the abusive ex who procured those images using threats or coercion; the high school boyfriend who videotapes a sexual encounter and shares the video with everyone in school, and the Peeping Tom who surreptitiously records and uploads images to pornographic websites. Because of the online (“cyber”) nature of the activity, victims are often left with no clear path to justice to restore their reputation, and overcome the serious harms caused by the harassment. This is because the defendants are anonymous, and the websites may elect not to remove the content when requested. In instances when the content is removed, it more than likely will reappear on the same or a different site, and then, within a short period of time is indexed by search engines under the individual’s name or other indicia of her identity (e.g., unique avatars, handles, and usernames).
The Without My Consent website, which we are workshopping at the PLSC, is intended to empower individuals harmed by online privacy violations to stand up for their rights. The beta launch of the site (set for Summer 2011) will focus on the specific problem of the publication of private images online. It will provide legal and non-legal tools for combating the problem, and encourage the development of case law on anonymous-plaintiff lawsuits. Our hope is that the site will also inspire meaningful debate about the internet, accountability, free speech, and the serious problem of online invasions of privacy.