Your blog can and will be used against you in a court of law.
That is the conclusion that I’ve reached today after finding out that our local police department actively reads and comments upon the personal websites of the members of my house. Not only that, but they freely placed allegations gleaned from a resident’s site in a threatening letter sent to our landlord.
One part of me is happy; law enforcement is not naive and is actively keeping tabs on the publicized happenings of their neighborhood. It’s good to know that the good guys have powerful tools at their disposal and aren’t afraid to use computers.
At the same time, it *feels* like a violation of privacy. It’s technically public information, but in the same vein as having photos covertly taken of you in a public place, it does not seem to respect me as I should hope a citizen should be respected.
Now we could go the paranoid route and put a username and a password on our personal websites, just as we had to do for our house website, but that wouldn’t be just. And I still feel upset that the police managed to cow us into locking off our house website; especially when even after we had done so they made several demonstrable attempts to email us personally in the guise of people who had friends who had enjoyed previous parties, all for the purpose of trying to get us to give them a username and password. I think there is a fine line between clever investigation and entrapment here. Not cool…and possibly not legal.
But all said, I don’t see what is going on between us and the police department as warfare. They clearly do serve to protect us. I feel like we have done our utmost to respect them, show them courtesy, and done all we can to promptly address their wishes. We’ve even resolved to no longer throw any big parties at our home, which is a terrible loss to the Bay Area community. (Our house threw the only sizeable private house parties for Bay Area professionals in at least a 50 mile radius.)
But except for one or two officers who treated us kindly and directly as peers (the watch commander should be commended for her work here), I don’t feel we’ve been treated as anything close to first-class citizens. The message is clear – “You don’t belong here. We don’t like your types.” We were even lectured by one officer as to how we were worthless and weren’t even worth listening to because we don’t pay his salary. I suppose this was ostensibly because we don’t actually pay property tax ourselves, but instead pay someone who pays the property tax. To make matters verge on the farcical, he followed this up almost immediately with a threat to bill us for their services. Crazy.
So I feel like we are not at war with them; we have alerted them ahead of time as to every party we were intending to throw, have given them our cell phone numbers, and have worked hard to reduce noise levels, keep to alchoholic beverages on the premeses, and to keep folks from driving home drunk…but all to little avail. They seem to be at war with *us*. And I think that taking content that was written by a resident of a house for his friends to read and using it against him in a letter written to his landlord steps outside of the bounds of propriety for law enforcement.
I write these words knowing that they can and will be used against me by officers of the law. That’s a little scary. If you have a blog, you must now ask yourself if you would be willing to send a copy of whatever you’re writing to the police. Because, if you live in an area where the police force is well-funded, that’s exactly what you’re doing.