Invasion of Privacy in AskMe? June 12, 2005 8:02 PM   Subscribe

posted by cribcage to Etiquette/Policy at 8:02 PM (43 comments total)

I didn't think it was "lame", but I did think it was kind of creepy, and I'm surprised that it got posted.
posted by interrobang at 8:12 PM on June 12, 2005

Agreed. If we're going to be posting the full names of someone's long last (anything), there should be some way to contact the poster.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

although it's lame, I can't blame anonymous for trying... I wish I had a name. I'd have found my parents by now if I did.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:20 PM on June 12, 2005


posted by I EAT TAPES at 8:30 PM on June 12, 2005

Creepy, yes. If someone showed up claiming to be my long lost son, I'd punch him in the mouth, then hand him a beer, and slam the door in his face, but slip him the car keys through the mail slot. Then I'd slander his name in every public forum, and add him to the joint checking.

You know, I'm not happy about it, but I take responsibility.
posted by Balisong at 8:59 PM on June 12, 2005

Eh, just do a 'replace("Kosk*", "Doe")' and add a comment noting that.
posted by Gyan at 9:16 PM on June 12, 2005

I've already posted the reasons I think this question should not have been posted. It should be edited to remove the name of the alleged biological father. Geeks aren't the only ones who use Google these days.
posted by madman at 9:32 PM on June 12, 2005

I also vote for deletion. Using Ask for that is nonsense. If you want tips on how to find someone, fine--but a specific someone? That's horseshit. Next thing we're gonna have someone posting trying to find his long lost daughter when in reality the poster'll be a "thank god she finally escaped him" stalker.

I also don't know my dad so I'm not unsympathetic, but this is setting a really bad precedent.
posted by dobbs at 9:41 PM on June 12, 2005

Thanks for posting this. It really is CreepyFilter. I would have posted something on MeTa along the same lines but people would have jumped down my throat. Tag it, flag it and bag it before someone gets hurt or sued.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:51 PM on June 12, 2005

Yeah, I thought it was kind of creepy and weird the person didn't post it under their real username. I had no idea people would pull up addresses and phone numbers. I'll go in and remove the references to the actual names.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:57 PM on June 12, 2005

While the posting of names and addresses is not good I think the post rather than being lame is poignant. Perhaps a temporary email address can be added for stuff that shouldn't be made public. Anonymous could email Matt with the address and have him add it as a comment to the thread.
posted by caddis at 10:04 PM on June 12, 2005

I thought it was interesting, but then again, I liked Jersey Girl.
posted by drezdn at 10:13 PM on June 12, 2005

Despite the stated reason for seeking this person, we really don't know for what reason this person is being sought. As an anonymous post that is even more true. And more creepy.
posted by geekyguy at 10:13 PM on June 12, 2005

And the address didn't weird me out so much, as it's easily available from zada(?).
posted by drezdn at 10:14 PM on June 12, 2005

Balisong! DAD! At LAST!
posted by squirrel at 10:17 PM on June 12, 2005

I know my birth name and my birth mother's name and I belive my birth father's name. Let me just say if this is an adoption issue it's a bit wrong. However, it sounds more like a stalking thing to me. Not good at any rate.
posted by arse_hat at 10:26 PM on June 12, 2005

I wouldn't call it lame but rather, indelicate and potentially (err...? actually) intrusive.
posted by peacay at 11:00 PM on June 12, 2005

Don't forget to remove the name from the grey too...
posted by grouse at 11:39 PM on June 12, 2005

How is this "lame"? All this person wants to do is track down this part of their genetic makeup and did so anonymously. What about their rights to do this?
posted by mkelley at 4:00 AM on June 13, 2005

There's nothing lame about trying to find your birth parents, what was lame about the question was the way it was handled, for several reasons:

- they posted anonymously, but named names. that's kind of odd, and I never thought being adopted was something to be ashamed of or hide from.

- they named a random person and people ran with it, posting someone's phone number and home address. It's quite likely that wasn't the exact person (they only had vague memories) and yet, there was their personal contact info for the world to see. That's uncool.

- people were kind of creeped out by the whole thing in that we have no way of knowing anon's true intentions, and some seem to feel that maybe anon was stalking some random person and needing help (I'm guessing here based on some responses asking me to delete it).

I kind of knew the question was iffy when I approved it, and in retrospect, should have deleted the exact name of their possible birth father to help steer the answers on track. Ideally, the answers should be a mix of ways to help people find long lost people, not posting specific details of actual people that might be who the person is looking for.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:14 AM on June 13, 2005

Perhaps a temporary email address can be added for stuff that shouldn't be made public.

This has always struck me as the weak link in anonymous posts. Some of the most valuable answers I've recieved on AskMeFi are those the person answering sent privately for his/her own reasons. Why not allow anon poster who choose to add a temporary disposable email address, this could be done in the body of the question so that no extra code voodoo is required?
posted by cedar at 5:00 AM on June 13, 2005

I never thought being adopted was something to be ashamed of or hide from.

This isn't really an adoption situation, is it? The original poster says:

"My mother had some sort of (I believe) short-lived casual sexual relationship with this man, and it ended when he pursued someone else while she moved somewhere else.

She found out she was pregnant and did eventually send a letter to his last known address, but apparently he was moving as well. She raised me for my first three years on her own after which she got married and I've known and loved that man as my father ever since, but have always known that he was my adoptive father."

He's looking for the man that ... well ... had sex with his mom, not to put too fine an point on on it. Maybe he wants to be annon to protect her, not him? *shrugs*

I do tend to think that if this had not been an annon post we wouldn't have seen the id information posted in the comments, but as it stands there was no other way to contact the poster.
posted by anastasiav at 5:36 AM on June 13, 2005

What's also "Lame" is posting on metatalk saying something is "lame" without giving your reasons. An objection in metatalk isn't very useful without more detail, it is too unfocused... what exactly was lame? The fact it was annon, the fact that names were posted, the whole concept of looking for someone on mefi, etc?

Hard to discuss this if we have no idea what your thoughts were in posting it to begin with.
posted by HuronBob at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2005

Yeah, for reference cribcage, what was lame?
posted by Bugbread at 6:06 AM on June 13, 2005

I would have thought this question was okay if it had been posted non-anon so that people could contact the poster if they wanted to send personal name/address type specifics which, in general, seem like they should stay out of mefi/askme/meta threads. Maybe there needs to be more of a guideline about this? Google Answers specifically doesn't allow researchers to provide specific information about private individuals which might be a good thing to adopt here. Posting "anonymity" can also be achieved, of course, by spending $5 for a new account with a gmailbox linked to it, so I'm not sure I see the need for what cedar is describing.

I see it sort of like saying "I went to school with soandso in 1974 and I want to see if I can find them..." Then again, it could have been a mask for "I never got over my boyfriend soandso and I want to GO TO HIS HOUSE AND SPY ON HIM" We don't know. With a non-anon posting, there could have been some back and forth with the poster which might have been valuable in this case.

I know many people here have differing concepts of how much privacy should reasonably be given to people in the age of Zabasearch and Google, but none of the information given in that thread wasn't available through public sources, correct?
posted by jessamyn at 6:24 AM on June 13, 2005

Well then perhaps it ought to have been framed so as to ask 'what public on/offline sources can one use to track down an individual/father', but with reasons why (which could of course be made up).
We all know that personal info can be readily obtained online but, as with the photo/avatar proposal the other day, they generally prefer to keep it a few clicks away from the viewing majority.
And FWIW, I prefer the idea of anonymous email a/c's to sockpuppet growth industry.
posted by peacay at 6:41 AM on June 13, 2005

i found the phrasing of the question rather odd. aggressive and somehow confused. perhaps just defensive or immature?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2005

"I had no idea people would pull up addresses and phone numbers."

Getting names, addresses and phone numbers off the web is so easy, I am surprised anyone objects to posting them in another location despite the added context.
posted by mischief at 7:48 AM on June 13, 2005

...despite the added context.

Well, the context is the problem - if I shared a name with the anonymous questioner's biological father, and someone copied my details from my site and posted them in that thread, I wouldn't be too happy to find a page online that implied I had a long lost son.
posted by jack_mo at 8:28 AM on June 13, 2005

I also vote for deletion.

Since when the hell do we get to vote around here?

There is nothing lame or creepy about this.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:26 AM on June 13, 2005

Probably the name should be removed from this MeTa as well.
posted by raedyn at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2005

There is nothing lame or creepy about this.

This comment would add more to the discussion if you stated why you think this is so. Care to elaborate, S@L?
posted by Specklet at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2005

I know many people here have differing concepts of how much privacy should reasonably be given to people in the age of Zabasearch and Google, but none of the information given in that thread wasn't available through public sources, correct? posted by jessamyn

True Jessamyn, but the issue is the use of the person's name...which may or may not be the person's correct name...and then people posting every phone number and address of people with similar names.

In other words, it would be like an anon post where someone said "I had random sex with this hot chick, only the next day, I found out I had crabs so big they needed a leash. I think her name was [insert your name here]. Can anyone help me find her?

It's unacceptable to throw innocent people's names, contact info and reputation into quagmire for nothing more than the conjecture of a sex act a couple of decades ago.

The person named by Anon shares that name, and iterations of that name with other people. Should those people be painted with the brush of casual sex and illegitimate children?

Don't get me wrong, I hope that anon's search turns out well for everyone involved. But the question shouldn't have had names attached. As I said in my deleted comment in that thread, the question of "how to find someone" is a valid question and easily answered. The question "how do I find *THIS* guy", is not so much a good idea and makes Matt liable if the question was asked for nefarious purposes or if it causes the named person any level of harm including publicity.

Which is why "I EAT TAPES" and "Gyan"'s responses should be edited in this thread.
posted by dejah420 at 10:22 AM on June 13, 2005

I also didn't find anything lame or creepy about the post. However, I tend to take things as presented unless it's proven otherwise. Gullible? Naive? Maybe.

I realize now, due to comments in the thread and here, that the post could be construed as stalker-ish. And I do agree that posting personal info (name, address, etc.) in this sort of situation isn't cool.
posted by deborah at 10:28 AM on June 13, 2005

dejah420, thanks for writing such an articulate and reasonable statement. I share your point of view exactly.

We have serious collective power to highly rank a page with this name on it in a false, damaging context. There's no way around it -- as long as there's more than one man in the world with this name or a variant capable of being the person anon is searching for, we're likely to guess wrong. For me, it's not ever okay to do this no matter how strong a part of the community the asker is, much less to do it for an anonymous poster! And then taking it to the level of seeking out addresses and google maps is just horrifying. How can this even be a question?
posted by melissa may at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2005

Definately was a lame post. Posting anonymously but then putting the presumed father's name in? Very, very lame. My (deleted) comment in the thread said much the same.

jessamyn wrote "but none of the information given in that thread wasn't available through public sources, correct?" That's not really the issue. It's linking the name and contact information to a potentially sensitive topic. The Mr. K might not want his acquantances to learn about his long lost child through a google search. The other Mr. Ks might not appreciate being associated with the thread either. This is especially true with an uncommon name.
posted by 6550 at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2005

6550, So what about "Mr. K" ? What about this person who wants to find his dad? This anonymous person wants to find someone who's geneticially tied to him and you people worry about how his friends might feel.

Sure, anon needs to provide an anon email address, but this was a *person* calling out for help for a very personal issue and not something as impersonal as a computer problem on askmefi and all they've received has been a bunch of shit in return. What about being human and trying to help? Put yourself in their shoes for a moment......
posted by mkelley at 12:47 PM on June 13, 2005

I worry about how the guys who might or not be his dad feel. The way in which the question was posted was an error in judgement.

Many of us are, I'm sure, in anony's shoes or a simliar- fitting pair and hope that the outcome is good for all.
posted by puddinghead at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2005

all they've received has been a bunch of shit in return.

This isn't accurate. In the original thread, anon also received great advice about services, organizations, and search tools that could help accomplish his or her goal. All of this is useful with or without the name originally provided.

I have compassion to spare, not just for anon, but for all the men who will be mistaken for the correct person being sought, and for the correct person himself, who may not have ever known of anon's existence. If and when the correct man finds out, what's more likely to foster a positive reaction: when told privately, or by a coworker or family member or friend who happened to google him one day and and found this sad story listed in the top ten hits?

So, please don't assume my position lacks compassion. Instead, try these shoes on for size: an anonymous person sends out this question about a man with roughly your name and specs, but who isn't you. Would you want to see your contact information and history posted in this very public forum as a result?
posted by melissa may at 3:48 PM on June 13, 2005

Lame? Maybe.

Desperate? Probably.
posted by telstar at 4:12 PM on June 13, 2005

mkelly, the bad feeling I got from the original post was because the poster was anonymous yet used Mr. K's name. There is no way to justify preserving one's own anonymity and not Mr. K's.

anonymous didn't need to name to names to recieve good advice for finding his/her father. zabasearch and a PI both could have been suggested as starting places without needing a name.

I'm not being inhuman, just respectful of the privacy of all the Mr. Ks. I even hope if anonymous finds the right Mr. K things work out well for them.
posted by 6550 at 4:24 PM on June 13, 2005

There was an article on salon a while ago about a woman who had been raped and impregnated as a teenager by a neighbor.

She gave the kid up for adoption, supposedly anonymously, and lo and behold she suddenly gets a call from this girl like 25 years later.

Except that the girl had found her biological father, the rapist, first. He was happy to meet her and she was now living with this guy. Apparently her adoptive parents weren't very good and she ended up kind of fucked up.
posted by delmoi at 12:15 PM on June 14, 2005

As an adoptee who has searched for (and found) his birth mother, I certainly have no problem with the post. That said, I do disagree with his laying-out the whole story, complete with potentially identifiable information. It was entirely possible for him to ask the same question without so much baggage.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:26 PM on June 14, 2005

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