Anatomy of a privacy nightmare

Gennette Cordova didn't ask to receive a photo of Rep Anthony Weiner in his boxers. Now her privacy has been obliterated. It happened to her, and it could happen to you too.

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Celebrities, politicians, and sports stars know that one of the big prices of fame and fortune is the loss of personal privacy. If you screw up big – by, say, fathering a child out of wedlock with your housekeeper – you’re the Big Story, at least until the next Big Story hits.

But what about ordinary folks like you and me? When fame or infamy hits us – even when it’s based on nothing we’ve done – the results can be devastating. There is no place to hide. And a big reason there’s no place to hide has to do with the nature of the InterWebs, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and most especially search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

The case du jour:  Gennette Cordova.

This 21 year old student at Washington State found herself at the center of maelstrom of unwanted attention last week after receiving an alleged close-up photo of Congressman Anthony Weiner in his boxers, sent from Weiner’s Twitter account.

[See also: Google wants to be your wallet. ]

Cordova posted a statement to the New York Daily News site thoroughly denying she’d ever met the unfortunately named Congressman and pointing the finger at Twitter miscreants with a political ax to grind. She writes:

The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life. I've 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.

My friends have received phone calls from people claiming to be old friends of mine, attempting to obtain my contact information. My siblings have received tweets that are similar in nature. I began taking steps, though not quickly enough, to remove as much personal information from the Internet as possible.

No matter. The story had already found its way onto the InterWebs and gone viral. And because the “scandal” involves a leftie politician who takes no quarter from the other side, some wingnut bloggers just couldn’t let it go.

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