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Governments Use Internet To Deter, Shame Lawbreakers

Friday, Aug. 10, 2012

In an article for Investor's Business Daily, Ethics Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson comments on the use of the Internet to publish information about wrongdoers:

"It's inevitable that we will be publishing much more government data online," Hanson said. "In general, it's a good thing."

Online publication of sex offenders' names and whereabouts help individuals protect themselves from convicted criminals, and such data have a social benefit, he says.

But posting online certain government data, such as arrest records, can open a can of worms, Hanson points out. If an arrest were posted, then at a minimum government would have the responsibility to publish the disposition of a case, he says.

"There are ethical issues because so much damage can be done by electronic publication of an arrest that doesn't lead to a conviction," Hanson said. "An electronic arrest record lives forever."

Government agencies have an ethical obligation to consider whether more harm than good results from putting certain data online, Hanson says.

Tags: IT and ethics