Monday, February 19, 2007

Digital Vigilantes


NBC4, a television station in Washington DC, tonight had a brief report on "Digital Vigilantes," who post pictures, video clips and accounts of misbehavior that they see in public, such as traffic offenses, bad parking, rude behavior, etc. Some of the sites mentioned were Platewire.com and Baddriving.com. Platewire encourages people to join and make their own postings.

I don't see anything wrong with posting bad driving or bad behavior in public places, including license plates. Tracking down people and posting home addresses (reported to be done sometimes) could raise legal invasion of privacy issues.

I often take pictures at political demonstrations and post them. Although I try not to focus much on individual faces, sometimes they show up. If you show up at a demonstration about anything, you could show up in the media. This used to be a problem for GLBT people going to parades.

I don't take pictures while driving (obviously, like cell phone use, a safety problem), although a companion could. I don't personally engage in digital vigilantism, but up to a point it seems legitimate.

The NBC4 report suggested that this is a legal gray area. The report says that digital vigilantes could harm people's "reputations" online, but as indicated before there are companies emerging that offer to clean up digital dirt. See this archive, look for Nov. 30.

For a related story on a local television (WJLA) demo of the ease of locating personal information about others, see this blogger entry.

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