University Regent Laura Brod could pursue legal action for online photo

Laura Brod confirmed July 25 a revealing photo online is authentic.

Emma Nelson

University of Minnesota Board of Regents member and former state legislator Laura Brod said in a statement last week that she is pursuing legal action after a private photograph of her — which she confirmed is authentic — was posted online.

The revealing photo, posted July 22 on a Tumblr blog, shows Brod lying on a bed. A link to the blog was anonymously sent to several local media organizations, including the Minnesota Daily. The story first emerged on City Pages’ website July 25 after Checks and Balances, a local political website, tweeted a link to the photo. 

In the statement first released July 25, Brod and her husband Wade said the photo was “illegally disseminated … for the sole purpose of embarrassing our family and damaging our reputations.”

“We cannot begin to explain why someone would be so mean, and so hateful,” the statement said. “Nor can we overstate the humiliation they have caused.”

Brod and her husband said the larger issue of privacy invasion is not unique to them and that they are pursuing “all legal means possible to prosecute whoever is responsible for the illegal dissemination of this material.”

University law professor William McGeveran, who studies digital privacy, spoke hypothetically about internet privacy cases in an interview with the Minnesota Daily on Monday.

If private information — like a photo — is obtained through hacking, then it could be prosecuted as a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, McGeveran said.

“By the way,” he said, “the crime wouldn’t actually be the posting of it then — the crime would be the way it was obtained.”

If the information wasn’t obtained illegally but was posted online without the subject’s consent, it could result in a civil lawsuit for invasion of privacy between the subject and the person who posted the content, McGeveran said.

These kinds of cases can be complex, he said, because they often deal with embarrassing information.

“It can be very hard on plaintiffs because you end up potentially bringing more attention to the private information by suing,” he said.

In their statement, Brod and her husband said they would not comment further on the matter.

The University does not plan to release any statement, said University spokesman Chuck Tombarge.