Social media use is in the rise, with social information-sharing sites such as Facebook and Foursquare counting thousands of additional users as new members each week. For however exciting this new information frontier may be, it poses just as many ethical and legal considerations that will need to be ironed out over the years to come.
One of these considerations came to the fore recently with regard to the posting of drunk driver mug shots on a city's Facebook page. This past Tuesday, the City Council for Huntington Beach, California rejected the proposal of Councilman Devin Dwyer that would have required law enforcement to post mug shots of suspected drunk drivers with prior DUIs on record. The Council's rejection comes as a relief to anyone concerned with maintaining the presumption of innocence afforded to all U.S. citizens under the law.
The Councilman's goal was to shame the suspects by posting their mug shots to Facebook and also use this as a preventative measure to incentivize the suspects from incurring additional repeat DUI offenses. The Councilman thought that knowing such pictures would be posted may prevent people from drinking and driving in Huntington Beach. The City Council's vote to not pursue the councilman's proposal reflects privacy concerns as well as the perception of their city such a campaign would foster in the short term. Such postings could erode the presumption of innocence all citizens are required to receive prior to a conviction.
Huntington Beach is a city with an active nightlife. Situated in Southern California right on the Pacific ocean, the area is home to a large concentration of bars and an even larger concentration of residents. The city ranks 1st in California for fatal DUI accidents amongst similarly-sized cities.
Source: The Washington Post "Calif city rejects Facebook shaming of DUI suspects" 1/19/11