Partial Transcript: Episode 39 (Public Data)

Nick: I wanted to bring up the idea of people publishing gun owners in an area.  We’ve got similar things here in Texas.  You can watch the arrest records of your local municipality on Facebook.

Andrew: Or go onto the website and see who was booked, when, and for what.  It destroys the presumption of innocence.  The website isn’t saying that they’re guilty, but most people assume that if you’re arrested for it, then you’re guilty.

Virginia: This gets back to the difficulty of finding the data.  If you wanted to, you could go down to the courthouse and look through the files and see who was arrested.  But, because it comes to your Facebook feed, it’s somehow wrong?

Andrew: My problem isn’t with the fact that the information is out there.  We have something in my town where you can see what’s happening around town.  To me, that’s not a problem because they don’t mention names.  That is fine.  You can know when stuff is going on, but you’re not publicly shaming people.

Nick: But there are other setups where they post mugshots and arrest records.  It gives off the vibe that they’re guilty.

Virginia: Are you objecting to that particular record being public, or is it the broadcasting?

Mike: It’s more like the broadcasting.

Nick: It’s the broadcasting.  Let’s say there’s a work office that constantly tracks this stuff.  They may not fire you for a speeding ticket, but they might if you get arrested for a crime you didn’t commit.  It might also be a social reason.

Andrew: Or if you apply for a job and they do a background check.  Right now, it’s only convictions.  But let’s say you do a Google search and find that you were booked into Denton county for assault.  It turns out you weren’t convicted because of mistaken identity.  That hurts your prospects for getting a job even though you weren’t guilty of anything.  It’s kind of a destruction of the idea of innocent until proven guilty.

Virginia: Again, that’s information that was always public.  Had your employer been so inclined, they could theoretically go down to the courthouse and pull the records to see if you’d been arrested.

Andrew: I don’t know what the law is in regards to how long you keep the data.  The problem is that websites get the public information and can keep it forever.  Even if the arrest records protect privacy…

Nick: Let’s say you work for the government, and an arrest keeps popping up on search engines.  Now you can’t get another government job.

Andrew: There is a website that collects this information and charges people to remove it.  They make a ton of money doing this.  It’s an effective form of blackmail, and it destroys “innocent until proven guilty.”  I guess make it available for a certain timeframe, but not broadcast where websites take advantage of people.

Mike: You can take a billboard and post the mugshots in real time.

Nick: I think there was a billboard in Dallas that was doing that.  One guy had a horrible employee and got a digital billboard where he posted the guy’s arrest record.

Virginia: Are you in favor of any public shaming whatsoever?

Nick: I know.  I’m a hypocrite.

Virginia: What about convicted pedophiles?

Nick: That’s so scary!  There’s so many people who get tagged with that for consensual sex when they’re barely legal themselves.

Virginia: Pick something that’s easy.  Serial killer.  10,000 witnesses…

Andrew: They should be in jail.  What about some other violent crime?

Nick: The thing is, if you’ve served your time in jail, you supposedly are done.  You paid society.

Virginia: What if you could choose shaming over serving time?

Andrew: That might work for minor crimes.

Mike: There was a lady who drove around a school bus, and the judge ordered her to wear a sign saying, “I’m a moron.”

Virginia: That seems like a weak punishment.  Nick?

Nick: There’s value in public shaming.  But some of these have such long effects, especially with the internet.

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