With all of this information so open, the criminal could potentially be in danger. Someone seeking revenge on sex offenders have complete and easy access to what the person looks like, their full name, and, more importantly, where they live and work. Revealing this information could not only put the criminal at risk, but their family and coworkers too. There are countless reports of registered sex offenders being attacked. One such account happened on January 26, 2004 in Yonkers, New York.
The man was who dies from multiple gunshot wounds was a fifty year old who has been released from prison three years earlier after serving time for third-degree rape. The report in the New York Times revealed that detectives hadn't arrested anyone yet but they "knew who they were looking for" (Tavernise). This man and his family were at risk because. Having his personal information displayed online would have made it even easier for his killer to have found him and taken revenge.
Registered sex offenders have served their time in prison and have paid their dues to society, yet they still remain with a stigma that can come back to haunt them and their families. As a less severe consequence, the criminals' dignity is also ruined. If a sex offender wants to start over with a clean slate, gaining friends would be hard to do if everyone knew that they were a sex offender. By posting all of this information about sex offenders and making it public and so readily available to the community, their privacy is being invaded and acts of slander and libel are being committed.
From looks at the given information, it would seem that divulging this information to the public is a violation of the criminals' privacy rights. Privacy rights are not the only rights at stake here though. The people of the community have rights as well. The Declaration of Independence gave the people have the right to the pursuit of Happiness, which includes not living in fear. The pursuit of Happiness is a right that cannot be taken away from any citizen.
Also included as rights that citizens have are the right to personal safety and a sense of security. The right to feel at ease in your own property and home is essential. Before homebuyers buy a home, do they not have the right to know the information of the safety of the area their home is in? The criminals are not the only ones who experience a violation of rights in this case. Yes, the right to privacy and property does exist on the criminals' side. However, sometimes one's personal information must be sacrificed for the common good (Spinello, 151).
Jeremy Betham and John Stuart Mill, the two British philosophers who developed utilitarianism (Spinello, 11) would argue that there would be utility in revealing the personal information about the criminals. Utility is the net benefits an action has. The benefits of revealing the information to benefit the innocent community members would outweigh the benefits of concealing the information and protecting criminals' privacy. Based on this theory, it is morally right to make the sex offenders' information public.
As mentioned earlier, security has two different definitions with regard to the Internet: the security of one's machine and the security of one's personal information. However, this security of one's personal information can be given up to certain organizations to protect the common good. While some would believe that common good stops with employers, I would argue that making sex offenders' personal information open to the public is not a breach of their privacy or security, but necessary for the common good in order for community member s to remain safe and secure.
Also, just as the Fourth Amendment can be used to justify the right to privacy, it can also be used to justify the right to security. This includes having the feeling of security in your own home. Having access to certain personal information about the sex offenders in your area where you live is part of that security. A counter argument could be made that argues that the right to privacy includes the "right to be let alone" (DeCew, 29) However, the two are completely separate. Privacy and autonomy are related, but separate when speaking of laws, enforcement, and ethics.
Also, autonomy does not supersede the power of the judicial branch. Knowing this, it is easy to see that criminals' "right to be let alone" is overcome by their status as criminals and sex offenders by the judicial branch. Based on judicial law's power over the individual, criminals' autonomy is superseded and their right to be let alone as well as their privacy rights are negated in order to ensure that the common people can feel secure in their own homes and neighborhoods. Both the criminals and the members of the community have rights that need to be meet.
At first glance, it seems as though the criminals' privacy and property rights are being violated because of websites that show too much personal information with no consent and leave the criminals open to the possibility of danger and defamation in the form of libel and slander. In this case, the defamation exposed is accurate about the sex offenders, but the publicity of the information could affect the individual in a negative way. However, it is also true that it would benefit the common good for the sex offenders' information to be released.
The information would insure the security of the community and give residents peace of mind and allow them to take the precautions they feel are necessary to protect their families. Making their personal records public knowledge gives residents the security in their own homes that they have a right to. This security supersedes the right to the criminals' security of information. Two parties have conflicting rights and the line has to be drawn somewhere. The responsibility of drawing this line between the rights lies within unfortunately lies within the unknown and fairly new (judicially speaking) realm of cyberspace.
Based on the necessity of protecting the common good, I believe the battle of conflicting privacy and security rights goes to the innocent public. Who's job it is to regulate this release of information in cyberspace is in question. The Internet is the scene of the crime when deciding how much information should be released. Because a webpage on the Internet is the media releasing the information, they are one ones who need to monitor it and therefore abide by the ethic and laws that apply to privacy rights, the right to the pursuit of Happiness, the rights to security, etc.
But who is "the Internet? " It is difficult to know not just what entity, but exactly who is physically responsible for upholding cyberlaws and practicing cyberethics. There are many possible culprits here: the Internet provider, the website owner, the original holder of the information, the list could go on. It could be the Internet provider's responsibility to monitor the activity on his Internet and the websites on them. However if the provider is a large company such as Comcast, the entire company could be liable for potentially violating privacy rights.
Another party to blame could be the webpage creator. This specific person or company created the means to expose the information to the public and purposely made it public and available. A final offender could be whoever originally held the information. Sure the webpage published the information, but is it truly their fault if the police department handed them the information and mug shots of sex offenders? There are many directions in which we could point fingers as to whose job it is to patrol the Internet and make sure all of the proper laws and ethics are being followed.