An interesting and contentious privacy issue

A TN newspaper is maintaining an online DB of the personal information of people that have been issued a conceal carry permit in the state:

The Commercial Appeal added the database to its Web site in December, but it did not draw attention until an early February story about a parking spot argument that ended with a motorist shot dead.

Editor Chris Peck said the paper added the database because newspapers should be a thorough source for community information. He pointed to the recent shooting as a proof why the database is valuable to readers.

After the parking lot dispute, a reader posted an online comment asking whether the suspect charged with murder had a permit to carry a gun. The newspaper responded by directing readers to its database.

“When that gun comes out in public, the citizens of Tennessee have right to know,” Peck said. “When and if it is used in public, the private weapon becomes part of public policy.”

The database allows people to search for those who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon by name, ZIP code or city. It makes more easily accessible data already available to the public through records requests to the state Department of Safety.

I find this logic interesting. They are defending the public’s right to know who has a permit be saying “When and if it is used in public, the private weapon becomes part of public policy.” But they are publishing names of people that have a permit, regardless of whether they have ever used the gun in public, carry it on a regular basis, or have even purchased one.

One wonders why any newspaper in today’s economy would offer a free service that offends so many of its customers. I don’t think this is going to end well for the paper in question. They are going to learn the painful lesson that “it’s public anyway” just doesn’t cut ice when you publish people’s personal information. Especially if it’s the same people to who you expect to sell newspapers.

And of course this has spurred an effort to make the information private anyway. Better late than never.


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