Privacy? What privacy?

One might be led to wonder whether there is any real expectation of privacy, out in the wilds of the internet. Certainly, it's clear that people typically act in such a way as to minimize this. An example, and one with more than a few facets to be examined, is the incident provoked (and prodded... and ...) by a blogger by the name of Jason Fortuny.

Fortuny, looking at Craigslist, observed this, and made a decision that is -- at best -- unethical, and at worst actively sociopathic. He posted an explicit ad to a casual encounters section of a Craigslist site (a section devoted to hooking up for no-strings-attached sex) and waited for responses. Those, he got in spades. Having accumulated a fair number of responses from all walks of life, containing personal information such as phone numbers, names, e-mail addresses, and photos -- many of which consisted of nude or semi-nude shots -- he proceeded to post this information to the web.

At, there are at the very least two fairly serious potential _legal_ ramifications to Fortuny's actions (Sex Baiting Prank on Craigslist), having to do with the exposure of private information, and deliberate attempts to cause distress. These pale, however, beside the ethical and moral ramifications. Fortuny's stated aim with this was to "push buttons", and at this he's succeeded. He's also succeeded in causing at least one separation (no citation, sadly, except a peripheral mention in the Waxy article) and no small amount of distress to parties involved. Moreover, he's spawned a copycat already.

So, the question that's worth asking -- and is well asked at the Wired blog that pointed me at this -- is, for those who are thinking... "well, they got what they deserved, trolling for sex on the internet", is this thought experiment:

What if it the Craig's List posting was about:

  • A 25 year-old woman looking for a sugar daddy?
  • A depressed woman looking for a fellow depressed guy?
  • A dom woman looking for submissive men to humiliate?
  • A gay man looking for 'straight' guys?
  • A 'straight' woman looking for a butch lesbian?
  • A butch lesbian looking for a 'straight' woman?
  • A lesbian looking for a lesbian?
  • A closeted gay man looking for another closeted, discreet man?
  • An overweight, not attractive straight guy looking for a date?
  • A 21-year-old hipster looking for another hipster into?
  • A goth woman looking for a goth guy into leather and trenchcoats?
  • A couple looking for a third person to watch them have sex?
  • A Christian woman looking for a Christian man?
  • A furry looking for another furry?
  • A Cos-Player looking for someone to dress up with them?
  • A middle aged woman who doesn't know she has terrible taste in poetry looking for a man who will buy her flowers, take her for walks on beaches and compose saccharine poems that rhyme?

Which of these do you feel superior enough to that you would want to see their private notes and photos displayed illegally on the internet?

And what's your justification for choosing what kind of people are reprehensible enough to you that their private lives should be splayed on the internet for anyone, from family to friends to co-workers to acquaintances to their bosses, to see?

`--from Wired 27B Stroke 6 <>`__

So, tempest in a teapot? Violation on a par with rape? Just short of? Sadistic action of a man-child? Sociopathic cruelty?

What do you think? There's a fair number of starting points for thought on Metafilter, where this is presently being hotly debated.

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