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WhosaRat

I’ve blogged a lot about Internet shaming, and haven’t been too keen on the practice. Here’s the latest instantiation of the practice from the AP:

Police and prosecutors are worried that a Web site claiming to identify more than 4,000 informants and undercover agents will cripple investigations and hang targets on witnesses.

The Web site, WhosaRat.com, first caught the attention of authorities after a Massachusetts man put it online and named a few dozen people as turncoats in 2004. Since then, it has grown into a clearinghouse for mug shots, court papers and rumors.

Federal prosecutors say the site was set up to encourage violence, and federal judges around the country were recently warned that witnesses in their courtrooms may be profiled online. . . .

The Web site is the latest unabashedly public effort to identify witnesses or discourage helping police. “Stop Snitching” T-shirts have been sold in cities around the country and popular hip-hop lyrics disparage or threaten people who help police. . . .

Sean Bucci, a former Boston-area disc jockey, set up WhosaRat.com after federal prosecutors charged him with selling marijuana in bulk from his house. Bucci is under house arrest awaiting trial and could not be reached, but a WhosaRat spokesman identifying himself as Anthony Capone said the site is a resource for criminal defendants and does not condone violence.

“If people got hurt or killed, it’s kind of on them. They knew the dangers of becoming an informant,” Capone said. “We’d feel bad, don’t get me wrong, but things happen to people. If they decide to become an informant, with or without the Web site, that’s a possibility.”

The site offers biographical information about people whom users identify as witnesses or undercover agents. Users can post court documents, comments and pictures.

Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

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