Monday, April 29, 2013

Online Privacy - New Tech Developments - Part I

Two recent news stories raise new legal issues regarding online privacy. If you're an attorney (or soon-to-be) looking for work, mining the news to discover these developments can put you ahead of the curve.

First, Reddit, a website that bills itself as "the front page of the internet," crowd-sources news stories, sometimes with wildly inaccurate results. According to a recent NY Times article, "[a]fter site members, known as Redditors, turned into amateur sleuths and ended up wrongly identifying several people as possible suspects, Reddit went from a font of crowdsourced information to a purveyor of false accusations, to the subject of a reprimand by the president of the United States himself, to the center of another furious debate about the responsibilities of digital media."

While Redditors may argue they're not responsible for misinformation or they have the right to say whatever they want, they might be wrong from a legal standpoint. Conceivably they could be held liable for defamation, violations of privacy, or other torts. And Reddit may or may not be contributorily liable. If you're counsel for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bombing suspect, or an individual whose privacy was invaded by over zealous Redditors, can you sue and get redress?

To find out, try researching four subjects: right to privacy generally, online/Internet issues (including online privacy), contracts (e.g., can terms of service protect an online company like Reddit?), and good old fashion tort law. There may be limited case law in this area, so working by analogy to create a new legal cause of action may be your best bet. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Check back Wednesday for the second online privacy story with cutting-edge legal issues.