A few days ago, I asked a tough question. [ya gotta read the link to understand this post] I got a fair number of responses. Most had very little sympathy for the neighbors or the blogger. (me in this case) The essence of that sentiment was put forth by Laurence Simon:
MEDICAL RECORDS: Shoot neighbor.
CREDIT REPORT: Shoot neighbor’s husband.
POST ON WIZBANG: Shoot neighbor, neighbor’s husband, then you.
Problem solved. God bless the NRA.
Co-blogger Jay Tea said it a little more genteelly: I gotta side with the vast majority here. Violations of privacy of that nature are despicable and illegal, and should be avoided at all times. I don’t care how big an asshat is being violated.
What I found notable by its absence was people proclaiming loudly that the blogger (me) was covered by the first amendment. I think this is because I “rigged” the analogy. Rather than have it be about a corporation suing a blogger, I made it about YOUR medial records being blogged by me. Suddenly the privacy rights hairs stood up on the backs of people’s necks.
That stands in stark contrast to the response to Apple computer suing (not a blogger but) a Mac rumor site for publishing information STOLEN from Apple.* In that case, bloggers almost unanimously cried foul. They were wrong.
The question in this case is not about bloggers protecting sources, (for starters, thinksecret is not a blog) it is about the theft of and trafficking of property of great material value. This information is not about Steve Jobs having an affair or some salacious gossip, this is intellectual property that is owned by Apple computer being stolen from them and then disseminated by a for-profit rumor site. Information Apple computer spends million of dollars to produce.
Just because you claim you are a journalist does not give you the legal right to steal other people’s property.
Another reason I think people underestimate the importance of this issue is they can’t comprehend the value of this information.
Think about this: What does Apple sell? If you said computers and iPods you’re wrong. Apple sells a user experience. A user experience you can not get anywhere else. Since 1984 Apple computer has lead the way. They used a mouse, then everyone used a mouse. They used a CD-ROM, then everyone used a CD-ROM. They made their computers funny colors, then everyone made computers with funny colors. (the list goes on and on) I promise you the PC makers are going to flood the market with micro PC’s in response to the Mac mini.
This is a multi-billion dollar business. Apple computer is almost 200 spots higher than Gateway on the Fortune 500 list. They live and die by getting their innovative products to market before other technology companies have even thought about making similar products.
By people stealing trade secrets from Apple and publishing them, these people are ultimately stealing millions of dollars from the shareholders of Apple computer.
If a blogger posted the earth-shattering news that Steve Jobs wore something other than a black tee shirt to work and Apple sued, I’d be on the bloggers side. This ain’t that. This is theft of a very expensive piece of property, the future of a multi-billion dollar company.
What I found interesting in my experiment was that when it came down to terms people could understand and identify with, they demanded privacy but when the information is owned by a large company, somehow it should receive no such protection. In the whole scope of life, releasing one person’s credit record is far less damaging than stealing the property of millions of shareholders.
Shannon Love eviscerates the arguments that this property should not be protected. The whole thing is a must read (especially if you plan on commenting;) but the money graf is this:
If every individual has a right to publish stolen information with no expectation that they will ever have to reveal how they got that stolen information, then no one’s information, no matter how private or trivial to the public interest, will be safe.
A scary thought.
And if you think the rumor sites help Apple and all this was planned, John Gruber will be more than willing to disabuse you of that notion.
If you have argued that the first amendment covers the trafficking of stolen property, I urge you to read my links and rethink that position. This is not about “journalism,” it’s about theft.
* There is a vast amount of misinformation about the lawsuit running around. This is a good summation.