Not Romantic, Fauxmantic (strawberryviper) wrote,
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Ethics of Hunting Down Criminals

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ethics for the real world blog

Ethics For The Real World

Ethics of Hunting Down Criminals
June 10th, 2008 clint Posted in Stealing |

A laptop thief was recently caught by using a program that allows you to remotely access your mac. In essence it allowed a Joey Carenza III to remotely access his friends laptop to uncover the thief’s dirty laundry.

“He used the same birth date at several sites,” Carenza says. “He used the same mother’s maiden name. He applied to a local dating site and put in his information. It was like he was filling out a police report for me - height, weight, eye color.” Mike Cassidy - San Jose Mercury News

Interestingly, there was no mention in the article about the the thief’s right to privacy or any other rights for that matter. If Joey Carenza III really wanted to mess with this guy, he could have done a lot more than turn him into authorities–steal his identity, steal credit card numbers, frame him for more serious crimes, get him in trouble with other criminals in the area who might not be so concerned with due process, etc.

How far can a smart hacker ethically go to get even with a dumb thief?

First of all, when someone threatens you or your property, your ethical obligations towards them may change. I have an ethic of not harming others except in self defense. My ethic changes when my life is in danger.

Great! Does this mean Carenza can then go shoot this guy if he figures out where he lives? No. Hold your horses here. This type of vigilante justice violates a sense of proportionality and our legal system. Anytime you deceive, steal, or harm you take on responsibility for the consequences of your actions, even if you have a great story as to why you did it. Those more enlightened than I, such as Gahndi, would argue that you never violate your ethics, even in self defense.

What makes Carenza’s monitoring ethically ok in my mind, is that he had the laptop’s owners permission to monitor laptop activity. He did not need the thief’s permission in any way. No ethical compromises were made in this situation.



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