A court in Krasnoyarsk has recently ruled that those who posted a plaintiff’s seminude photographs on the Internet did not break the law. A girl’s photos are still available for browsing on one of the web sites open to any user who cares to log in. In part, the girl is to blame for the outcome of the case because she does not seem to have any idea about the power of today’s hackers. The ruling also highlights the lack of effective regulations applicable to certain aspects of information exchange via the Internet in Russia.
Evgenia, a student from Krasnoyarsk, had her computer connected to one of the local Internet providers two years ago. Not unlike the rest of young web users, she sent and received messages by e-mail, visited chat rooms and downloaded term papers. Then a hacker gained access to her computer. He illegally copied some of Evgenia’s photos kept in a personal archive on her computer. The photos featured the girl in a state of semi-undress. Soon the pictures were posted on a web site open to general use.
“Those pictures were intended for my use only. You know, every girl has a secret dream of starring in an erotic show now and then. As a result of that nasty incident, lots of people saw my private pictures on the Web. Some people at the university started making lewd jokes and poking fun at me. I hoped that the story would soon fade away but all that gossip and left-handed compliments continued for quite a while,” says Evgenia.
Finally, she had enough and filed a lawsuit for encroachment of privacy. The prosecutor’s office started legal proceedings in accordance with a clause referring to “Dissemination of Information Concerning a Plaintiff’s Privacy.” Evgenia lost her case in a local court last week.
“The judge merely complained about the lack of action on my part. According to her, I was supposed to take steps and stop the spread of the photos on my own,” says Evgenia. “The decision indicates that my private photos ceased to be my personal secret once they were posted on a web site open to other users. In other words, they became ‘information intended for general use’.”
“It’s hard to track down a source of information on the Internet,” comments on the situation Alexander Gliskov, a lawyer. “Gathering evidence to prove that a certain individual ‘has borrowed’ your photograph is the hardest part. There will be no privacy encroachment if a person’s photographs and other pieces of private information that have been already published or posted by that person in one medium are made available somewhere else. However, one may give it a try and sue for the violation of one’s right to individuality,” adds Gliskov.
According to hackers, anybody can fall victim to illegal entry of the computer system. A hacker will take from several minutes to several days to “break into” the computer. Therefore web users are recommended to make up complicated passwords.
“You’d better trust no one,” says a veteran hacker who agreed to speak with me on the condition of anonymity. “A guy may ask you some questions that sound pretty normal. He may ask you about your family, your pet, your grandma and granddad etc. And then the guy will use the answers for picking a password to your ICQ or e-mail. Or you may receive a bogus warning from the ‘system administrator’ about an attempt of illegal breaking into your mail box. A polite request to type your password for ‘security reasons’ is attached. So you fall into a trap and reveal the password to a third party. Never open messages from strangers. Don’t click on any links attached to those messages either. The links may contain such special programs as Trojans and spies.
The former are designed to steal information from places checked off with ‘save password’ e.g. ICQ, chat room, forum. Once you get a “spy” slipped into your system, all the information stored in your machine will be smuggled to the place where the virus came from.”
There are no bans on the Internet. You can find the pictures of naked celebrities or President Putin whose body was “stripped to the bone” with the help of Photoshop. Porn sites including those which cater to pedophiles are easy to find too. There are numerous sites for posting homemade erotic pictures. Nobody can guarantee that your pictures or your friends’ pictures intended “for private viewing only” will not be posted on the Web one of these days. The authorities haven’t yet come up with an effective method to keep the “worldwide web” under control.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov