After Privacy Breach, Blog Commenter Leaves Job
In a recent, remarkably self-satisfied column, "Post a vulgar comment while you're at work, lose your job," Greenbaum bragged about how he outed one formerly anonymous commenter.
Greenbaum wrote that someone sent in a "vulgar expression for a part of a woman's anatomy" as a comment to an item that posed the question "What's the craziest thing you've ever eaten?"
Someone at the paper deleted the remark, but the same commenter re-sent it. At that point, Greenbaum made an apparently off-the-cuff decision to out the poster. Greenbaum had the commenter's IP address -- it was included in the email with his original comment -- and could tell that it came from a local school.
He called the school, informed on the commenter and then forwarded the email. It didn't take the school long to figure out that a teacher had sent it the message; he ended up resigning that day.
Greenbaum, who holds the title director of social media, posted a follow-up column today denying that he had disclosed private information. "I had none to reveal and wouldn't have if I had it," he writes.
Apparently, the online editor still doesn't grasp that IP addresses can be used to identify individuals.
What Greenbaum really seems to resent is that any random reader can now get published simply by hitting the send button. If Greenbaum mourns for the old days, when editors tightly controlled who appeared in the letters/op-ed pages, he could and should lobby the paper to disable automatic comments.
Of course, that path contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about what newspapers need to do to bring their businesses into the digital era. Then again, so does ratting out commenters to their bosses.