Privacy, Plaintiffs, and Pseudonyms: The Anonymous Doe Plaintiff in the Information Age
68 Pages Posted: 10 May 2004
As a result of modern technology, many plaintiffs today must give up their privacy to seek justice. Before court records were available online and Internet search engines such as "Google" made personal information readily available, courts, citing the historical emphasis on judicial openness, were reluctant to permit plaintiffs to bring their actions pseudonymously. In this Article I argue that a more liberal approach to plaintiff anonymity is now needed. This is necessary to prevent a chilling effect on plaintiffs, who are compelled to forgo their claims for fear of having their private information made public. I examine the current methods courts use to evaluate whether, and which, plaintiffs' privacy interests deserve protection through use of a pseudonym, and I propose criteria for courts to use when making such decisions.
I conclude the Article with a pair of recommendations: (1) that, when evaluating plaintiff pseudonymity requests, courts respond to the role that technology plays in diminishing privacy in modern society; and (2) that the responsibility for considering plaintiffs' privacy concerns and requests for pseudonymity be delegated to specialized judges or magistrates. The goal of these changes is to provide plaintiffs with freer access to pseudonymity protection in the face of technological encroachment upon their privacy, and to standardize a process that is currently ad hoc and unpredictable.
Keywords: privacy, civil procedure, internet, pseudonyms
JEL Classification: K40, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation