A Richer Internet Experience Isn't Always a Good Idea

Today I was reading the local news and noticed something I find disturbing, and irresponsible.

Inside a tragic story about a child who died of abuse, http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/3039098/, the story lists the house the death took place at.

And includes a Google map to the location.

Is that really necessary? Does it add to the story immensely? I don't think it does.

I do think that map encourages lots of ugly behaviors... like people going by and harassing the other family members, or seeking vigilante justice, or throwing rocks. Behaviours that we have decided, as a society, are illegal and not appropriate. What logical reason is there for including the link?

Yes, I can do a lot on the Internet. I could, depending on the state the crime occurred in, link not just to the Google map of the address, but the property tax records including the floor plan of the home, perhaps the home phone number of the people arrested, their voter registration files, or the Google street-view of the house next door. Just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should.

I used to work for a local government. Under my management, the site policy was to link to every address with an online map... unless the address was that of a resident testifying before the Council, or a member of the City Council or a Board.

Yes, angry citizens were free to call up the Mayor at home and yell at him. That didn't mean it was my job to make that easier. Yes, if you don't like the choices made by your Zoning Board you can go knock on their doors. That doesn't mean I should suggest it by linking their names to driving directions to their house!

This is where I go all Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can data mine something doesn't mean you should. Save that time for detecting corruption, not encouraging ugly behaviour.

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