TechPresident presents the gun barrel of targeted exposure:


The Guns and Gun Data Debate, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the End of Privacy

Public equals online.

That mantra has been repeated often around here. Public equals online. Make government documents into computer files that programmers can easily parse and synthesize. Take information about government, or held by government, and turn it over so that the people of the Internet can use it to explain the world to the rest of us. In November 2010, when the Sunlight Foundation* decided to make a go at inserting that credo into the midterm elections, this was an uncontroversial request to make: Public should equal online. If it’s already “public record,” put it on the Internet. What’s the difference?

As soon as 2013 began, the Lower Hudson Journal-News offered a reminder. While “public equals online” is uncomplicated where “public record” is concerned, the inverse is also true. Online equals public.


The issue here is public figure versus private citizen.  And journalist versus Internet scraper.

Journalists have a set of principles and ethics that guide what they reveal and what they withhold. The ethical compass of civilian Internet hunter/gatherers is less predictable. As the techPresident piece notes:


People of the Internet are becoming better and better at uncovering public information online, and information that is online and as a result accidentally public. The done thing is to aggregate that into as complete — and probably embarrassing — a profile of the subject as possible. It’s called “doxing,” and the ethics of doxing by people on the Internet are debated as hotly as journalists debate the ethics of naming private individuals based on public records.


The moral of this story: It’s not just Facebook that’s chasing your personal data. It could be your Facebook friends as well.

FaceWarned is FaceArmed.


John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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