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Anatomy of a Privacy Nightmare 275

Posted by Roblimo
from the jump-in-a-hole-and-pull-it-in-behind-you dept.
itwbennett writes "Gennette Cordova knows first-hand how impossible it is to erase yourself from the Internet. The 21-year-old college student was the hapless recipient of a photo of a Congressman Anthony Weiner bulging in his boxers. Ms. Cordova then 'watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I've ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.' She then tried to remove her personal information from the web, one social network at a time. But the fact is, 'until a site's Webmaster removes the offending content, it will remain accessible via search engines like Google,' says blogger Dan Tynan."
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Anatomy of a Privacy Nightmare

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:21AM (#36321522) Journal

    It happened to her. Just like one day it could happen to you.

    No, it won't. But that's just because I am one boring person and I don't share much online. But hats off to your ridiculous fear mongering. While Gennette Cordova herself wasn't a celebrity or public figure, she worked for one and probably should have been careful about broadcasting that to the world.

    I don't care if I work at goddamn McDonalds, I'm not going to associate my employer with anything online. One day I'm going to get done with work, get on twitter/facebook/slashdot and paraphrase Fight Club:

    Because one of these days some manatee is going to come into the restaurant demanding his slaw and this button-down, Oxford-cloth psycho might just snap, and then stalk from drive-thru to drive-thru with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into customers and co-workers. This might be someone you've known for years. Someone very, very close to you.

    And I'm not going to be fired for venting.

    In 1568 if you used a Gutenberg press to print off everything about you and you distributed it by hand to all the other serfs in your kingdom would you be surprised that they know it!? No? You grasp that concept?! Well what is so hard to grasp about putting your freaking life story on the internet only to be shocked when it's fed back to you by everyone on the goddamn planet?! It was true then and it's true now. Keep what you want to remain private as private. What changed after she got the photo that suddenly made her aware that everyone can see her profiles? What changed? Now other people are posting that same information? Because it was publicly available to anyone and any search engine? Ridiculous. Hoisted by her own petard.

    • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:25AM (#36321564)

      Did she work for him? Everything I read said she was just a student and had never met him. I haven't read that much, though, so I could be wrong.

      And a lot of these things she didn't even put on the internet. Go to a site like Spokeo.com and put in your name. I know I didn't put my house value on the internet but yet there it is.

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        Go to a site like Spokeo.com

        Doesn't even get the right country for me. Not even the right continent.

        • Having an incredibly common name is a wonderful thing sometimes. There are literally thousands of me in there. Even in my current town, there are approximately ~400 that people they've pulled up - and *none* of the results have my current address (even after drilling down manually *myself*) - they had exactly one addy/name combo that matched, that was inaccurate by over 3 years. I popped in via open proxy to insure that they didn't dredge through their visit records and get a sniff. :)

          Good luck finding out

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        I did. It was hilariously wrong.

        It has me confused with my father (same name, except I have a middle name and he doesn't). They get my middle initial wrong. The weird information hybrid of my father and I are has a lot of things wrong. Apparently "our" hobbies include travel and cooking (I travel a handful of times a year by car, usually only for a weekend), and the most complex thing either of us have cooked is frozen waffles. It says we're a Capricorn, but I'm a Capricorn and my father is an Aquarius. It

        • by rednip (186217)

          nobody by that name lives or has ever lived at those addresses as far as I know.

          yet, perhaps spokeo.com is seeing into you future. However, it doesn't really matter, as perception is reality when applied to the lives of other people.

    • To an extent, you're correct. The pictures, current location, etc. are items she put online herself and only she can be blamed for them coming back to bite her. HOWEVER, things like phone numbers, former addresses, drivers license information, income from tax returns, associations via family members, past properties owned or rented, and MUCH more is all available online from public databases. They're there for the taking by anyone who has the time and/or money to do the searches. In that case, that is inf
    • When I went to read the article that is linked, I went down into the comments. The FIRST one, among many others along the same line, is from an online 'reputation' company basically advertising how important their services are because of this convenient incident. Included is a way to contact them for their services.

      On what planet do bloggers suddenly allow ads like this in their comments... when they are not working together?

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      I agree, doing nothing social is both safe and lonely.
    • In 1568 if you used a Gutenberg press to print off everything about you and you distributed it by hand to all the other serfs in your kingdom would you be surprised that they know it!?

      I'd be pretty damn surprised. I don't think that many serfs could read in 1568.

      • I'd be pretty damn surprised. I don't think that many serfs could read in 1568.

        True, but what if that printing contained a woodcut rendering of his penis?

        • by jimicus (737525)

          I don't think that many serfs had access to scanning electron microscopes in 1568.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      In 1568 if you used a Gutenberg press to print off everything about you and you distributed it by hand to all the other serfs in your kingdom would you be surprised that they know it!?

      Yes, in the same way that if in 1994 I posted stuff to a webpage, sent the URL around my neighborhood, expecting everyone to be web-savvy. IIRC, serfs weren't big on literacy.

  • Alleged picture (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There is significant evidence that Weinergate was a frame set-up from the beginng. I do feel sorry for this girl, as she is as much a victim of this mess as Rep. Anthony Weiner, but please don't accuse the representative of actually sending the photo directly to her - she was the vehicle of a hack-job, not the target.

    • A picture of a man's junk coming from a guy called "Rep. Anthony Wiener", going to some random student. It sounds like this is in reverse, this is a targeted prank by one of the girl's acquaintances. I mean, the man's name is "Wiener" and there's a picture of a man's gentleman's sausage coming from him, that is too perfect, it sounds like this girl probably rebuffed the advances of the wrong nerd.
      • I suspect he actually pissed off people on the other side of the political spectrum. He's a fire-breathing-liberal type, and Bret Breitbart is involved in this, so I'm automatically going take the whole mess with a grain of salt. Political infighting is nasty.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A picture of a man's junk coming from a guy called "Rep. Anthony Wiener", going to some random student. It sounds like this is in reverse, this is a targeted prank by one of the girl's acquaintances. I mean, the man's name is "Wiener" and there's a picture of a man's gentleman's sausage coming from him, that is too perfect, it sounds like this girl probably rebuffed the advances of the wrong nerd.

        It wasn't sent from an account that was simply titled "Rep. Anthony Weiner", it was sent from Rep Anthony Weiner's Twitter account, which is also titled "Rep. Anthony Weiner". It also was not just some random student. It was a student who was following Weiner.

        Also, if this were a hack, the FBI should be involved. I know I would want the FBI involved if it was my career on the line. So far, Weiner has refused any FBI involvement and wants to handle the "investigation" by a private firm, one that would be

    • Re:Alleged picture (Score:4, Insightful)

      by twmcneil (942300) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @03:58PM (#36324900)
      Soon as I saw that Breitbart had something to do with this, I figured it was a hatchet job. Breitbart has a real credibility problem IMHO. I'd sooner believe the headline "Elvis has Alien's Baby" in the Star than anything Breitbart says.
  • It wasn't his Tweet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bughunter (10093) <(bughunter) (at) (earthlink.net)> on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:24AM (#36321562) Journal

    It wasn't him. He was set up using a "feature" of Yfrog that leaves a gaping security hole. [blogspot.com]

    I submitted [slashdot.org] the story from CannonFire yesterday, but it's still pending.

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      But he's never categorically come out and stated that couldn't possibly be him, because there are no such photos of him.
      Things That Make You Go HMMMMMM....
      • by bughunter (10093)

        He has come out and said that it could be a photo of him, but if so, it was distributed without his knowledge or permission [nytimes.com].

        Considering the evidence that the photo was a plant, there is more than the necessary minimum reasonable doubt as to its origin.

        I admit Weiner showed poor judgment his response to the situation. But just because he's inept at dealing with the situation doesn't mean he's guilty.

      • by gman003 (1693318)
        While I was thinking the same thing, I was thinking it was because he actually sent it (but didn't want to outright lie about it). However, the explanation of "he took the pic, but didn't send it" seems faintly plausible. Weirder things have happened. Occam would throw a fit, but I like that explanation.
      • by Hatta (162192)

        The picture probably is of him. There's nothing wrong with having undie pics of yourself. The problem is when you distribute them unsolicited.

        • There's nothing wrong with having undie pics of yourself. The problem is when you distribute them unsolicited.

          I'm not sure there's anything seriously wrong with that either. It's not technically obscene. I mean, some Calvin Klein ads and swimsuits show more. Granted, sending it to someone unsolicited may be rude or possibly inappropriate, though the recipient is an adult and without a request to stop it's not any sort of harassment.

      • you prove that negative! prove it!

      • by surgen (1145449)

        I've got some gray boxerbreifs, and used to drink a lot, I can't even categorically deny that it is me.

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:36AM (#36321692) Journal

      Sorry, but I will NEVER click a link mentioning a "gaping hole" ever again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Purpleslog (1645951)
      Well...that is the Congressman's current explanation. Looking at all the facts...it may or not be his. The tweet is most likely from him or from somebody screwing with him who know his secret Yfrog email id. His actions seem more like those of a person covering up an "oh shit ooops" than like a victim who got hacked. He does seem to not want to involve the vendors or law enforcement in investigating.
    • by CODiNE (27417) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:56PM (#36322672) Homepage

      Yes it says "gaping hole" but it's a safe link and describes technical details of the hack.

      I hadn't heard of it yet, so for those who are confused as I was...

      Someone frames a congressman by posting a tweet under his name to the woman mentioned in the summary. The tweet included a picture of someone's wiener (not shown in the above blog post). The woman became infamous as the implied scenario was that the congressman was secretly sexting her but accidentally made it a public tweet.

      It actually turns out that the guy who "discovered" the pic and spread the news was most likely the same person who uploaded it and planned the whole thing.

      Now the woman in the subject has been harassed as a result of being connected to this incident, she tried deleting her twitter account to make it go away but she's permanently tainted from it.

      From the blog post above, using the yfrog twitter service can expose you to anonymous 3rd party tweets using your name.

  • by paiute (550198) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:25AM (#36321572)

    Look, kid, you just got the kind of publicity money can hardly buy. Get on the phone to ICM, get an agent, and pitch a reality show to TLC pronto. You will be able to pay off the college tuition and buy a house for your mom.

    You are going to be famous/notorious anyway. Might as well make a buck from it.

    • by xMrFishx (1956084)
      Then burn life's house down, with lemons!
      • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:44AM (#36321826)
        Lemons are apparently the new cake. Great. I know the jokes were funny in the game, but referencing it constantly whenever someone so much as mentions lemons, moon rock, crushers, or potatoes just kills the joke. I would much prefer that we make our own jokes.

        Or at least do something inventive with it. I'm sure there's some funny Monty Python/Portal combination jokes just waiting to be made.
        • by Hatta (162192)

          The parrot is a lie!

          • by gman003 (1693318)
            Actually, I was imagining some sort of Spanish Inquisition bit. I imagine Wheatley is extremely bad at torture.

            You could probably do something with Holy Grail / the Animal King. How did it become King, anyways?
      • by Rinikusu (28164)

        Well, either turn lemons into lemonade... or golden showers....

  • A true American would cash in on her fame while it lasts. Get free travel across the country doing talk shows. Get a big advance for that novel she was thinking of writing. Get paid $50,000 by the National Enquirer for her exclusive side of the story. Get an endorsement contract from Nike. There are endless possibilities.
    • And only in America you'd expect a private citizen to suck it up and be blamed upon failure to become rich in the process of sucking-it-up.
  • by BitHive (578094)

    I RTFA but couldn't find an explanation of how being sent a photo via twitter caused her personal information to be passed around the way the summary describes.

    • by pla (258480)
      I RTFA but couldn't find an explanation of how being sent a photo via twitter caused her personal information to be passed around the way the summary describes.

      It gave her her five minutes of fame. In the modern world, that amounts to basically having six billion stalkers.

      Twitter only enters the equation because "OOOOH, bad boy congresscritter used a COMPUTER THINGAMABOB to sexually harass a staffer!" (no pun intended).

      /semi-offtopic: Captcha of "ruined". Sometimes you really have to suspect the S
      • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

        It gave her her five minutes of fame. In the modern world, that amounts to basically having six billion stalkers.

        That and she's undoubtedly provided plenty of digital footprints for six billion stalkers to follow, categorise, and trade. That's right folks. You are safe within your "social media" fix because, after all, nobody would ever be interested in you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lehk228 (705449)
      Because she ran to the media as an un|willing participant in breitbart's ongoing bullshit.

      entirely caused by her actions
  • by PTBarnum (233319) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:35AM (#36321690)

    It's good to see that Slashdot is respecting this woman's desire not to have her name and age posted everywhere on the internet.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:41AM (#36321804)
    Forget about crotch shot pics and twitter, try buying a house sometime. Suddenly just about everything about you is in the public records for web sites to mine and resell.
    • County records, county tax appraisals, property records, court records, etc have always been public information. That precedent goes back hundreds of years so you should not be surprised people mine that information and use it for all kinds of purposes, including marketing.
    • This. The funny thing is how wrong most of that information is. My Experian file is page after page of some true stuff, some blatantly untrue stuff, some stuff mixed up with my father's file (apparently I started working at Boeing when I was 10 years old - would be nice, I'd just love that pension). Spokeo.com (suggested by another poster) has most of my 'personal profile' almost, but not entirely, wrong.

      Of course, that could even be more of a problem if I suddenly became 'famous' which fortunately, se
  • A tricky problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Salamander (33735) <`jeff' `at' `pl.atyp.us'> on Thursday June 02, 2011 @11:45AM (#36321838) Homepage Journal

    I've long since gotten used to the idea that everything I say online - going back to Usenet days and even before - will stay with me forever. Some times you just have to remind people that it was X years ago and people/opinions change. Would you take advice from someone in mid-life whose opinions hadn't changed since their teens?

    That's all garden-variety stuff by now, but I did have a more interesting case come up on my website. I had occasion to write about someone who was trying to scam people with an online "contest" that was rigged. Yes, I named names, especially after the guy (who went by more than one name BTW) tried to intimidate me with fake legal threats. Years later, I got email saying that he'd reformed, he was trying to get a job, but potential employers would Google for his name and find my site. Tough luck, I thought, and continued to think as the pleas kept coming every few months for years. What finally got my attention was when he mentioned that he now had a family. This little piece of history, no matter how valid, was now starting to affect *other people* who were completely innocent. While I don't believe in censorship, I do believe in the validity of the "statute of limitations" concept so I decided on a compromise. The article about this guy is still on my site, you can even find it by searching there, but you can't find it by searching on Google. (Robots.txt plus referer blocking specific to that post, for those who care.)

    The lesson is that the existence of information and the ease with which it may be looked up are two different things. Dirt is just too easy to find, for the same reasons that gold is too hard: search engines' evaluation of "importance" or "relevance" doesn't always match any sane human's. While it should be *possible* to find someone's decade-old forum posts, perhaps it's not quite right for the most inflammatory thing they ever said to be the very first thing that shows up in a casual search . . . and it often will be, because controversy drives higher rankings. Making stuff just a little bit harder to find, like we all do here with low-rated comments and like I basically did in this little anecdote, deserves more frequent consideration as an alternative to deletion.

    • [...]That's all garden-variety stuff by now, but I did have a more interesting case come up on my website. I had occasion to write about someone who was trying to scam people with an online "contest" that was rigged. Yes, I named names, especially after the guy (who went by more than one name BTW) tried to intimidate me with fake legal threats. Years later, I got email saying that he'd reformed, he was trying to get a job, but potential employers would Google for his name and find my site. Tough luck, I thought, and continued to think as the pleas kept coming every few months for years. What finally got my attention was when he mentioned that he now had a family. This little piece of history, no matter how valid, was now starting to affect *other people* who were completely innocent. [...]

      Did you happen to check to confirm his story? Does he really have a family? Once a con artist, after all, ... and maybe it was potential marks, not employers, who were finding out his history by Googling him.

      • by Salamander (33735)

        Valid questions. Yes, I did some homework to convince myself that the story was valid, but that would have made the anecdote too long. ;)

    • by sjames (1099)

      Exactly true. As a society, once again technology has advanced faster that our social maturity. That's no reason to slow technology, it's a reason to think more carefully and advance our social maturity.

      We need to recognize as a society and as individuals that at some point, the past really is gone. People do grow and change. None of us would be very happy to be treated as if the years of change since we were 5 never happened. I'm sorry Mr. Johnson, we can't hire a manager with a history of cookie theft an

  • Too bad people need to learn the hard way. People are like that.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      This why I feel the story is messed up. This isn't a privacy issues as much as a fame issue. It is not something new.

  • If you put info out there.. it will be out there.

    This is a good example of people not respecting XYZ because it didn't happen to them, right up until it happened to them. I wish people were smarter.. figure out that whole *actions have consequences* thing.

  • But the fact is, 'until a site's Webmaster removes the offending content, it will remain accessible via search engines like Google,' says blogger Dan Tynan."

    Wrong.. once it is on the interwebs, it lives forever in caches and history scrapers etc..etc.. once you go digital..you dont go back.
  • So the solution is to go mainstream too and give a few interviews denying everything in the hope those interviews will get the upper hand over the gossip?
    It might. Future will tell.

    • The solution is to post "poof" that the gossip is false -- then actively try to purge the "proof" from the Internet and thereby leverage the Streisand effect and conspiracy theories to sway public opinion. "If it wasn't true, why would people try to erase it?"

      Bonus: Use fake the DMCA take-down notices as part of your eradication strategy.

  • Since I can get addons for firefox which query google randomly every second, why can't ms cordova get an app that sends out tons and tons and tons of spam with her name, permutations of her name, etc etc....quickly making it impossible to find the real info
  • There is no such thing as privacy. Privacy requires a compact between people that what person B knows about person A will not be distributed. Well, today what you know is worth money, so goodbye compact. Even if all it does is create one more visitor to a web site with ads, that translates to real or at least potential money in someone's pocket.

    Then there is mirroring, archiving and copying. Sorry, but lots of stuff is mirrored and archived. The minute it appears the mirroring and copying start. This

  • People on the right think that Rep. Weiner attempted to direct message a picture of his privates to a girl but accidentally sent it on his feed were everyone could see it.

    People on the left think that Rep. Weiner's twitter account was hacked.

    Either way, he's not handling things properly.

    If his account was hacked, then someone has the ability to send out faked messages from a public official. This needs to be investigated to see if it was just him not being careful with his password or if there's a security

  • Keywords: hot, pic, pictures, bangable

    She's short and "full-figured" so unless that's your type, you won't find her hot. You may like her rack if you find Playboy centerfolds arousing.

  • by losttoy (558557) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @01:00PM (#36322708)
    Information = Signal - noise. Why try to destroy the signal when it is easier to add noise to the point that information obtained is useless. In plain speak, add lots of random information associated with your name on different social networking and other sites. Result is that anyone looking for you will get such diverse and nonsensical information that they will abandon the pursuit and profile.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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