July 19, 2008

Evolving Norms and Privacy In Plain Sight [4:29 pm]

It was suggested that TPP set up a Facebook page as a part of our student recruiting strategy, so I decided I’d better get a look at the platform by joining. It’s still something of a mystery to me what it’s all about, but this Reuters article certainly illustrates one key feature of modern life that a lot of folks still haven’t managed to grasp: Web networking photos come back to bite defendants (pdf)

Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman, the 20-year-old college junior attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner. Pictures from the party showed him in a black-and-white striped shirt and an orange jumpsuit labeled “Jail Bird.”

In the age of the Internet, it might not be hard to guess what happened to those pictures: Someone posted them on the social networking site Facebook. And that offered remarkable evidence for Jay Sullivan, the prosecutor handling Liptons drunken-driving case.

Sullivan used the pictures to paint Lipton as an unrepentant partier who lived it up while his victim recovered in the hospital. A judge agreed, calling the pictures depraved when sentencing Lipton to two years in prison.

See, stupidity *is* a criminal offense!

I recently finished this remake/reframing of 1984 that touches on exactly this theme: Blind Faith by Ben Elton - I picked it up when transiting Heathrow a couple of weeks ago. The premise is that, while in 1984 the primary crime against the State was “thoughtcrime,” Elton paints a comparable world where “privacy” is the worst crime one can commit. What’s so awful about reading this entertainingly written (albeit still pulp) fiction is that you can see the kernels of this possible trend all around you.

Later: Another Facebooker looks at its use — Hey, Friend, Do I Know You?

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