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Palm Walk site under review

Page may violate privacy, trademark regulations

 by Michael Famiglietti  published on Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Palm Walk, which runs through the heart of ASU's Tempe campus, is one of the most frequently traveled avenues on campus./issues/news/693923
Chris Atwood / THE STATE PRESS
Palm Walk, which runs through the heart of ASU's Tempe campus, is one of the most frequently traveled avenues on campus.
 

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A Web site asking viewers to rate the physical appearance of female students is under review by ASU because it may violate privacy and trademark laws.

The site, www.palmwalk.com, features more than 200 pictures of women taken on Palm Walk at ASU's Tempe campus.

Web site users are asked to rate the women on a scale ranging from "hot" to "ice cold."

ASU finance and marketing senior Thomas McCarthy - who also started www.collegestock.com, a Web site that provides financial advice - created the Palm Walk site.

Photos were taken last semester with a "high-tech digital" camera, said McCarthy in an e-mail interview.

"Palmwalk.com was created to show the world that Tempe, Ariz., is truly the 'hottest place on earth,'" he said.

People compliment and love the site, McCarthy added.

"From a utilitarian [sic] perspective, I believe palmwalk.com is morally just," he said.

But Nancy Tribbensee, ASU's vice president for Legal Affairs, said the site may violate state law because McCarthy didn't ask permission from either the University or the women before posting the pictures.

"The determination rests on whether or not people have the expectation of privacy," she said.

Arizona law stipulates a person cannot be photographed or filmed without their knowledge in a place they expect privacy.

Cmdr. Mark Roberts, from the Department of Public Safety, said the department is waiting for ASU's decision before taking any action.

Since the University is a public place, the site is probably not breaking the law, he said.

"There's no expectation of privacy," he said.

Carleigh Jahns, an undeclared freshman, said she thought it was "weird" people were rating the pictures but wouldn't mind if she was on the site.

"It's not really revealing or personal," she said.

But Jaime Smith, a nursing sophomore, said the site was an invasion of privacy and "really mean."

"It makes me kinda go eww," she said.

ASU has yet to decide if they think the Web site is violating any laws or if they will take legal action, Tribbensee said.

The Web site may also infringe on ASU's trademark because it is using the colors, name and location of ASU without permission, Tribbensee said.

But McCarthy said his site is "perfectly legal."

"I always fulfill picture removal requests in a timely fashion and never intend to make money from the site," he added.

Douglas Preston, spokesman for Domains by Proxy, the company that registered McCarthy's site, said palmwalk.com isn't doing anything wrong.

Domains By Proxy is a Web service that webmasters use to protect their identities.

"They are not doing anything that violates our terms of service," Preston said.

If the site were making slanderous comments about the women it would be different, he added.

"It's just a photo being presented," he said.

McCarthy said he will continue to post because he thinks the site is important.

"The world is full of great ideas waiting for people to take action," he said. "As an entrepreneur I'll continue to innovate the world, no matter how controversial my ideas sometimes may be."

The Web site temporarily went down over the weekend because it exceeded its bandwidth. McCarthy said the site will be upgraded and back online in the next few days.

Reach the reporter at michael.famiglietti@asu.edu.



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