To get back to Paragraph #1, the point I felt needed to be made in this thread (and the reason why I used the example of employer spying), was that people shouldn't be lulled into a sense of false security because they believed the technology would protect them.
Also, it seemed to me there was a general malaise over the issue, because of a belief in Max's benevolence. Max and Mudcat aren't the people who would be guilty--people tracking Mudcat posters would be. Defending against it isn't cheap or easy.
As to the legal side of the issue (or I should say, one aspect of it): what people can do *legally* with information about you they have collected with the technology is still being worked out in the courts, legislatures, national and international bodies concerned with technology and civil and human rights.
Your belief that posting private information about yourself here (ie your email, and other private information you wish to give to people) doesn't constitute publication of it, wouldn't likely hold up in a search and seizure legal context. If you willing give out the information for the Mudcat directory, then you likely would not be able to successfully claim a right to privacy, and information gathered about you on-line could be used against you in a legal case. This would also include any personal/private information you choose to reveal about yourself in your postings. All that information, here and in any other forum where you post, could all be considered public information, and could be used in a court case to prove "whatever" without the burden of proof falling on whomever was bringing a case against you.
However, if you have posted anonymously only, and someone suspects it is you, to bring a case against you, they would have to identify you. Because of the first amendment right to free anonymous speech, that can't be done without the courts intervening, issuing a subpoena to websites in question, etc etc etc. In order to determine your identity, they have to have access to all the posters' IPs, to determine which posts were yours, so the entire forum's list of posters, anonymous and public, would likely be included, as members can use false identities just as easily as anonymous guests can.
So, my point is, even though everyone who posts in newsgroups, chat rooms, and discussion forums is at risk. But those who use their real identities are, in fact, at higher risk because they willing have revealed their identity and whatever other private information they choose to reveal. A court order or subpoena isn't required to use information in the public domain, and so far, the courts have decided that the Internet chat forums, in fact, are a public domain.
So, anonymous posting gives people *legal* protections that posting with a real identity does not provide. Regarding free speech and right to privacy issues, the legal side is much more important than the technical side.
Hope that clarifies things a bit.