Friday, July 17, 2009

Funny, It Doesn't Feel Right

...Yet we're perfectly within our rights to look people up through such online services as White Pages and, say, Facebook.

Checking Google Trends, I found a lot of people have been looking for more information about Heather Lynne Zeo, a high school math teacher in Philadelphia, PA, accused of sexual intercourse with a student. Or two students.

Is she on Facebook? She's totally on Facebook and MySpace. Will people use that as another argument that Facebook is a morass of decadence? It doesn't help that the two teens testified she used it to communicate with them. And I've never heard of Yola, but apparently Heather Zeo started a Web site through them, in which she promotes her inspirational religious music. "The 2003 release of Light as a Feather provided an opportunity for every individual to share in that Light as a Feather freedom attainable only through Complete submission to God's perfect peace."

"As a Christian," she writes, "I love my faith and all people! Teenagers and women's groups are a large part of my passion, but my God and my family direct my world!!" Turns out that's half right.

White Pages lists a Heather L Zeo in Philadelphia, at 1263 Holly Road (it provides a map, provided by Microsoft's new Bing service). There's a phone number, too, but it's only visible to members. But it's free to become a member--they just want online records as to who's looking up who's phone numbers, of course. So I could call and see what's up, which I'm curious to do, but I'm sure that household has disconnected its phone. She's a married 36y.o. woman with three kids, you know. White Pages lists all the names of the people registered in that household, but it doesn't state who's the father and who the kids are.

Part of me thinks it's neat that I can read a news article and instantly look up the home and phone number of the people involved. I did that a couple years ago, when a business woman attempted to run a police officer over with her car in her attempt to sneak past a road block. There had been a car accident and, consequently, a traffic jam, which the woman tried to drive around, crying, "I don't care who died! I'm more important!" I looked up her address and phone number, too.

I think it's neat, but I also think it's really creepy. There are certain people who would act on that information, either with harassing mail/phone calls or actually driving out to make a visit. Useful for a journalist, disastrous in the hands of someone with impaired morality, judgment, and a lot of time.


Nicholas Lee said...

While it may seem dangerous, this isn't anything new. If someone wanted to find you in the 50s, they could do it. It actually used to be a lot easier because there were fewer people. Overpopulation is what has given us the feeling of anonymity, but just a few bits of information about a person is all it ever took. These new technologies just make it easier. That's all technology does.

Of course, with our population, the odds are low of anything negative happening to any one person due to this technology.

There are far more pressing concerns, such as: what could an organization, including government bodies, do with this kind of information? How could they persecute individuals? Communities? The same way they did in the past. So again the problem isn't the technology. It is the root of problems in a society (namely ignorance). I like technology partly because it reveals that it is the human being only, and not the tools, which is the cause of harm or help.

Take the NRA, for instance. They preach that "people kill people" rather than guns. Correct. Problem is that it is just their gun-toting rhetoric that is partly to blame for misuse of firearms.

Well, I probably overdid it there. Just wanted to share my thoughts.

Christian said...

No no, those are some excellent points. Technology has made this information instantly accessible to anyone with basic online know-how, but the information was always available through other means. I have to remember it's not like the access was only recently granted.

What special interest groups will do with that information came up in the most recent presidential election, when my wife received an aggressive stream of propaganda in the mail. We could only guess it was because a certain political party had figured out which encampment she claimed as a registered voter, and they thought they would change some minds with their libel.