Suppose someone hired a private detective to gather as much personal information as they possibly could on an individual, with the sole purpose of getting back at the individual by having everything about them publicly known.

There are, one would point out, rules against “some” of this in certain public spaces. Mentioned someone’s address on Live TV? Boom, you’re gonna get the cops. Mentioned on Reddit that a certain individual is the alt of another individual? You’re gonna get a strike. However, it appears this kind of thing differs between contexts. For example, one public space might consider using someone’s actual name to be TMI and discipline against that but not consider it oversharing to mention their hometown, while another might be the reverse, considering revealing their hometown to be overdoing it with identifying them while using their name is fine.

I have begun thinking of this question because someone I know is in the exact situation with the whole private investigator thing. Ironically, the one who hired the private investigator (who we’ll call Person A) mentions she calls it inappropriate that she (the one the private investigator was sent to harass, we’ll call her Person B) isn’t afraid to refer to Person A and her family members without nominal restraint when in a broadcasted setting, but doesn’t see it as the same kind of red flag to share Person B’s school photos, places of residence, aliases (though some have been falsely attributed to her), and medical conditions (though for those she shares them to deny they exist). Person B says Person A has shared that info before in the form of Person A’s own aliases which make reference to that info which was “as obvious as Lex Luthor owning LexCorp”. Meanwhile, Person B says the same thing about Person A and the medical conditions and the media content starring her while saying of her places of residence that it’s only wrong if Person A ever planned to do anything with that information, as well as saying her findings about Person B’s supposed aliases publicly but not providing proofs because Person A thinks the proofs would be oversharing, instead encouraging anyone to do such an investigation on their own if they want proofs, this encouragement which Person A doesn’t consider oversharing.

You can consider that a footnote, but that’s what inspired me to think of asking. Suppose, then, you were to write a definition of unruly reference to personal details versus fair game references to personal details, and this definition had to be one where, if you acted within it, it’s always considered oversharing/overreferencing, while if you acted outside of it, you are never considered referentially guilty, and this definition had to be applicable across anything and everything in existence considered to fall under the definition of a public space/venue/utility. What would your definition be?

    3 months ago

    it’s a quote and also my answer …

    • alongside @dylanmorgan’s “public figure” there exists the concept of “expectation of privacy”
    • regular people should have a full expectation of privacy – ANY information collected, released, leaked without their express permission ideally should be considered a criminal act (looking at you Kaiser)
      • public records (and collating public records) gets a pass because the information is already publicly accessible
      • yearbook photos is just petty and childish but also gets a pass again because it is already publicly accessible
      • linking orthonym with pseudonym is a gray area – the person may make no secret that they are linked or they may be under the false assumption that the pseudonym confers anonymity (anonymity which may be required because of persecution)
      • medical/health records are absolutely a “no go” and should require express permission
      • government ID (social security number, passport number, driver’s license number, etc.) should also be private (even if they often aren’t because of mismanagement and lack of accountability)
    • public figures, celebrities, influencers, and CEOs should have limited expectations of privacy
    • corporations should have no expectation of privacy
    • politicians, governments, and ANY body that takes public funds should be fully transparent