Recently a Hudson Valley, New York news website sparked controversy when it published the names and addresses of individuals holding handgun permits. A blogger turned around and published the personal information of staff members at the news agency.
A controversy was sparked by The Journal News earlier this week after it published all the names and addresses in Westchester and Rockland counties on an interactive map (this information is available by the Freedom of Information Act); these counties are located just outside New York City.
The controversy has escalated now that a Connecticut-based blogger exposed the personal information on the publication's staff members.
Many viewed the original Journal News as a story that had "provocative" intent, as TechCrunch noted. The newspaper said it was a reader's "right to know".
Christopher Fountain, a gun owner not affected by the interactive map, spoke with CNN, Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien. Fountain said, "I felt they [newspaper staff] were using this to harass gun owners. So I harassed them back."
On his blog, entitled For What It's Worth, Fountain posted the names, home addresses, phone numbers and whatever other public information he could find on his blog. This included links to Facebook content and other types of public information, all bundled up neatly in one place, in theory, much like the interactive map.
"Somehow, [The Journal News was] conflating legal gun owners with some crazed, tormented devil up in Newtown and putting the two together," Fountain said. "And I was offended by that and I wondered how they'd like it if their addresses were published."
Despite the outrage felt by many, The Journal News stands by its original position, although the newspaper has seemingly not responded to any media requests for comment on staff member information being posted.
"One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown (Connecticut) shootings," Janet Hasson, president of the Journal News Media Group had said after the controversy began.
According to a report published by Reuters this morning, The Journal News plans to continue to publish interactive maps showing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders. Currently it is awaiting a response to a request from nearby Putnam County, N.Y. for permit holder information and plans to publish this information once received.
Seems this controversy may just be beginning. It is not yet known what the long-term impact will be by putting all this personal information so easily and readily available on either side of the issue.
What do you think? Was creating the map the right thing to do by The Journal News? What about the blogger's response?