A court order forcing Google to reveal the identity of a blogger who made nasty comments about former Vogue cover girl Liskula Cohen could highlight the issue of whether or not to protect online anonymity, and perhaps provide a new revenue stream for security-oriented solution providers.
In the case, an anonymous blogger had been waging a character assassination campaign against Cohen until Cohen got fed up with the blogs and filed a suit in January to reveal the blogger's identity. The court ruled this week in Cohen's favor.
Web sites and internet service providers have to deal with costs related to liability stemming from content provided via their sites, said Sam Panebianco, CIO of Kryptec.net, an Orange, Calif.-based provider of managed security, infrastructure assessments, system integration, and data forensics.
The Cohen ruling could mean an increase in that overhead, Panebianco said.
"Smaller media and Web companies will require more resources, equipment, and services to protect such information," he said. "For a company like Google, however, it's negligible because of the size of their operations."
The end result of the Cohen ruling could be an increase in sales by the channel to those media and Web companies in much the same way that lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) over digital rights management have helped beef up business, Panebianco said.
"Just look at how it's going down with RIAA and file sharing," he said. "ISPs have to be accountable. But it's also pushing sales of monitoring and other equipment down to the university level. Our company has seen a lot of university sales for intrusion detection and prevention technology, and event management technology."
The Cohen case is part of a trend that is starting to be felt around the Web, Panebianco said.
"A lot of people are trying to leverage information for their personal agenda," he said. "Now, if someone doesn't like a blogger's blog, they can force him or her to run up a huge defense bill."
Jim Clements, president of React Network, an Atherton, Calif.-based security and network solution provider, criticized the Internet in general for the way it makes it possible for anonymous bloggers to say what they want with little or no expectation of retaliation.
"It's gotten to the point where, between Google, Facebook, and Twitter, they've actually enhanced what I call the 'electronic sewer,'" Clements said. "While it started out as technology that enabled us to make great leaps forward, the Internet has become an 'electronic sewer.'"
Questions about privacy and anonymity and what to do about them are especially important to younger people who have not yet grasped the concepts, Clements said.
"Young people today have no concept of privacy," he said. "They don't even know they've lost it."