Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Geotagging Might Be Dangerous

Within one week of its Feb. 17, 2010, launch, Pleaserobme.com, a site dedicated to raising awareness about over sharing personal information, garnered more than 100,000 tweets, one million unique site visitors, and four million searches on Google.com, according to the site.

Created by concept and idea factory Forthehack, the
controversial project aggregates Twitter updates of people who use geolocation technology to let followers know where they are. It may not seem like a bad idea as the site essentially collects and shares information made public by its creators, but it does point out (by process of elimination and common sense) that those specific users are not home. Basically, advertising prime opportunities for followers to rob them, or at least rummage through their homes.

Forthehack says its only aim is to make people think about sharing certain information, which in its opinion, should be private, and build its brand through means of small hacks, the first of which is Pleaserobme.com.

A recent article on the Citizen Media Law Project suggests that Pleaserobme.com may present a new test of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230(c)(1) provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by others. In other words: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

This is potentially great news for Forthehack, knowing the law more or less weights in its favor. Under this pretense, they can get their message (and other future messages) across without being held liable for placing shared, public information into a thoughtful and ultimately innovative context.

There is an explosion of content aggregation sites out there. Many, such as Pleaserobme.com, populate sites by crawling and indexing social networking sites like Twitter.com. If you pay attention to most social networking terms of use, many expressly prohibit such data aggregation and compilation. Whether Twitter or Facebook would ever sue such companies is doubtful, since Twitter and Facebook presumably already engage in such behavior or would like the option to do so in the future.

Internet lawyers will be struggling with section 230 and the extent of its grant of immunity as it relates to data aggregation sites and social networking sites for many years to come.

Content contributed in part by Taren Fujimoto.

1 comment:

Seattle Law Blog said...

Great post. Agreed, the legal liability for geotagging has yet to be flushed out in case law...