Jun 18 2009

Who shot the sheriff (in the foot)?

Earlier today, I noticed this article. It seems that there has been a ruling in the High Court to say that bloggers have no legal protection to assure their anonymity. Seemingly arising out of a case where a Police officer was – rightly or wrongly – posting what I can only assume was sensitive material, it has ended up with the officer in question having to remove the blog and be subject to a written warning.

Naturally, I wanted to read what the officer – a detective named Richard Horton – had written. It seems that it was originally hosted at the URL http://nightjack.wordpress.com/, although not suprisingly the content has been deleted. Right, Google Cache then… erm, nope no cache entries. How about olde’ reliable Internet Archive – aka “The Way Back Machine” – surely that must have a copy? Nada again, it seems that there had been a robots.txt to block crawling by the Internet Archive. Bollocks.

Ironically, if the officer had not stuck in such a restrictive robots.txt then the content which he thought important enough to risk his job over in the first place would still be accessible and serving it’s original purpose – and to boot he would of had a valid excuse for it still being there!

Another lesson perhaps in why the ease of web publishing nowadays can act against the uninitated. One has to wonder if he knew how things would pan out when excluding crawls from Internet Archive. Interestingly, most of the standard copy-and-paste robots.txt examples you see floating about also have Internet Archive excluded; I wonder how many people have actually considered if that is truely what they want.

When it comes to the Internet, caveat emptor still applies – or should that be publisher beware.