Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Article: Businessman risks jail for e-mail secrecy, by Jessica Coomes

Businessman risks jail for e-mail secrecy
Web site owner says he won't tell on user

Jessica Coomes
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 23, 2005 12:00 AM

SCOTTSDALE - A Web site that would be nothing without its anonymity is being compelled to reveal the name of a customer.

But the site's founder would just as soon go to jail as unmask the user., based in Scottsdale, lets subscribers send e-mails without attaching their names.

One anonymous user sent e-mails to several employees of Mobilisa Inc. in Washington state, and attorneys for the company secured a subpoena this month to force the Web site to expose the sender.

"I won't give up my company. I won't give up this person's name," said founder Howard Baer of Scottsdale, who's expecting contempt of court charges. "If I have to go to jail, that's what I'll do. I haven't had a vacation this year anyway."

Mobilisa, which develops mobile devices for the government and military, did not want to comment on an active case.

If the content of the anonymous e-mails had threatened someone's life, Baer said he'd be the first to reveal the name. But as far as Baer can tell, the e-mails exposed a couple's affair.

"Is it a nice thing to do? I guess that's anyone's opinion," Baer, 63, said.

"Is it illegal? No."

Baer has started several companies and now operates four. He wouldn't say how many people subscribe to, which has four employees.

The site has been up since the end of April and has been threatened with legal action four to five times, Baer said. But this is the first time the threats have come to fruition.

"If we beat this one," Baer said, "I think it'll hold off anyone else."