The Future of Reputation

The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet

Daniel J. Solove
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Future of Reputation
    Book Description:

    Teeming with chatrooms, online discussion groups, and blogs, the Internet offers previously unimagined opportunities for personal expression and communication. But there's a dark side to the story. A trail of information fragments about us is forever preserved on the Internet, instantly available in a Google search. A permanent chronicle of our private lives-often of dubious reliability and sometimes totally false-will follow us wherever we go, accessible to friends, strangers, dates, employers, neighbors, relatives, and anyone else who cares to look. This engrossing book, brimming with amazing examples of gossip, slander, and rumor on the Internet, explores the profound implications of the online collision between free speech and privacy.

    Daniel Solove, an authority on information privacy law, offers a fascinating account of how the Internet is transforming gossip, the way we shame others, and our ability to protect our own reputations. Focusing on blogs, Internet communities, cybermobs, and other current trends, he shows that, ironically, the unconstrained flow of information on the Internet may impede opportunities for self-development and freedom. Long-standing notions of privacy need review, the author contends: unless we establish a balance between privacy and free speech, we may discover that the freedom of the Internet makes us less free.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13819-1
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: When Poop Goes Primetime
    (pp. 1-14)

    It all began in realspace, on a subway train in South Korea. A young woman’s small dog pooped in the train. Other passengers asked her to clean it up, but she told them to mind their own business. That’s when it moved over to cyberspace and became even uglier.

    Someone took photos of her and posted them on a popular Korean blog. A blog, short for “Web log,” is a running online commentary about one’s life or about the issues of the day. Another blogger, Don Park, explains what happened next:

    Within hours, she was labeled gae-ttong-nyue (dog shit girl)...

  5. Part I Rumor and Reputation in a Digital World
    • Chapter 2 How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us
      (pp. 17-49)

      The Internet allows information to flow more freely than ever before. We can communicate and share ideas in unprecedented ways. These developments are revolutionizing our self-expression and enhancing our freedom.

      But there’s a problem. We’re heading toward a world where an extensive trail of information fragments about us will be forever preserved on the Internet, displayed instantly in a Google search. We will be forced to live with a detailed record beginning with childhood that will stay with us for life wherever we go, searchable and accessible from anywhere in the world. This data can often be of dubious reliability;...

    • Chapter 3 Gossip and the Virtues of Knowing Less
      (pp. 50-75)

      Robert was an attorney employed by a U.S. senator. He had a slight crush on Jessica Cutler, a twenty-five-year-old staff assistant to the senator who had begun working there in February 2004. Robert had briefly met Jessica early on when Jessica began working, but he rarely had contact with her since he worked in a different part of the office.

      Jessica had recently moved to Washington from New York. Slender and attractive, Jessica was part Korean, part Caucasian. When she moved to D.C., she first lived with her boyfriend, but she grew bored with him and began to cheat on...

    • Chapter 4 Shaming and the Digital Scarlet Letter
      (pp. 76-102)

      Laura had to write a five-page college paper on Hinduism in a hurry. She had little to work with and knew nothing about the topic. So she decided to cheat. She sent an instant message to Nate Kushner, who listed Hinduism in his online profile with AOL. She offered him money if he would write her paper for her on short notice. Nate was appalled by what Laura was trying to do, so he hatched a plan. He would agree to write her paper but would fill it with silly errors and copied passages that could readily be found by...

  6. Part II Privacy, Free Speech, and the Law
    • Chapter 5 The Role of Law
      (pp. 105-124)

      With so much data being collected about us and with anybody being able to disseminate it around the globe, is there anything we really can do to protect privacy? According to the science fiction writer and essayist David Brin, it is too late: “Light is going to shine into nearly every corner of our lives.”¹ Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, has famously quipped: “You already have zero privacy. Get over it.”² His stance reflects a view that many are increasingly sharing. Privacy is dead, they believe, and there’s not much that can be done except deliver a eulogy and...

    • Chapter 6 Free Speech, Anonymity, and Accountability
      (pp. 125-160)

      Gossiping. Shaming. Rumor-mongering. All have pernicious effects on people’s lives, yet they all involve acts of expression. When the law restricts the circulation of information, it creates potential threats to free speech. This is one of the main reasons that the law of defamation and privacy are limited in scope. If the law’s goal is to restrict the spread of information when it causes harm, how can the law do so without unduly infringing upon freedom of speech?

      Freedom of speech is an essential right in a democratic society. As the poet and essayist John Milton put it eloquently in...

    • Chapter 7 Privacy in an Overexposed World
      (pp. 161-188)

      In our overexposed world, is anything private anymore? Currently, the law recognizes as private only information that is completely secret. Information exposed to others is public. Privacy, however, is far more complicated, as it involves a cluster of nuanced expectations of accessibility, confidentiality, and control. If we are to protect privacy today, we need to rethink our understandings of privacy. This chapter is about how to do so.

      The Burning Man Festival is held each year in the barrens of the Nevada desert. Tens of thousands of people converge on a vast dusty area far away from the urban world...

    • Chapter 8 Conclusion: The Future of Reputation
      (pp. 189-206)

      What will the future hold for our reputation? I have explored in this book the ways our reputations are shaped by the exposure of personal information. We love to talk about each other, and the information we circulate has profound consequences for how people are judged. In many instances, revealing another’s personal information can be beneficial to society. It enables communities to enforce norms. It educates us about the lives of others. It allows us to better assess others’ reputations. But it also can be problematic. Gossip can unfairly stain a person’s reputation; it often exists as a bundle of...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 207-236)
  8. Index
    (pp. 237-247)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-248)