Publishing Private Information in the Aftermath of Sandy HookPosted: January 29, 2013
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Shooting, the issue of gun control was given a considerable amount of attention. One publication, The Journal News, actually went so far as to publish a map of with both the names and addresses of people who had registered gun permits.
As New York Times author David Karp mentions in his coverage of the incident, this publication brings about a number of ethical issues. Yes, the American people do have access to information on registered gun permits. Yes, The Journal News did not do anything illegal when they published the map. However, we as journalists have to ask ourselves if the behavior The Journal News exhibited was ethical.
Why? First of all, the map and accompanying article were published at a time when the issue of gun control was very sensitive. Publishing a map declaring to the world the whereabouts of gun owners could put those gun owners in danger.
However, the map can go more ways than one. Now, in addition to information about who does own a gun permit in Westchester County, Pa., citizens also have access to an aggregated collection of the addresses of those people who do not own guns. Does doing so put these citizens in danger? It is an issue that the publication of the map brings to light, and one that must certainly be discussed.