The woman, had posted various comments under the pseudonym TACAN400. Notwithstanding her anonymity, the woman was tracked down by Dick Smith and identified. We've removed the woman's name from this post as a courtesy following her request. Through a private agreement between the parties, she issued a public apology and paid money towards Smith's legal fees, stating:
"Dick spent over $39,000 on legal fees to uncover my real identity … I have therefore agreed to repay him a substantial amount towards these legal fees."
In reporting the saga, Internet news organisation Crikey was quick to point out [subscribers only] the implications for anonymous posters, stating "…participants assume that because they are anonymous, they feel they can post freely and without fear of their identity being discovered. This now does not seem to be the case, and sometimes slanderous comments can be used against them by tracking their IP addresses."
Simple enough takeaway points, really:
- don't assume there is anonymity on the Web; and
- defaming people, even on a minor message board or chatroom, could end up costing you a packet.
Smith's actions highlight the need to urgently review and revise employee contracts and policy and procedure manuals. Companies should make it clear that disciplinary or dismissal action may follows breach of communications policies.
Legal exposure increases when organisations don't have clear guidelines for employee use of business computers or phones to – blog, comment, chat, message, SMS, email and communicate generally. Just as all roads used to lead to Rome, now IP addresses (ie Internet Protocol addresses) can lead to your business. A unique address can exist for any network device – including routers, computers, printers, Internet fax machines, and some telephones. They can lead to a Pandora's Box filled with problems – including defamation.