Sunday, March 30, 2008

SOUND OFF: I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST NIGHT

There's a guy in Oklahoma City who videotapes male customers soliciting prostitutes. He then posts the video on his Web site in an effort to expose these men to the public.

His Web site links to a page on YouTube that features clips of his handiwork and gives him a share of ad revenue generated. He often sells his video clips to news and talk shows.

While his efforts have apparently not resulted in any arrests, presumably the potential shame of getting caught on tape will keep some customers off the streets.

Is this guy performing a valuable public service? Or is he infringing on the privacy of the people he tapes, given that he is not a law-enforcement professional? Does it matter that he realizes financial benefits from his activities?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at rightthing@nytimes.com.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Seglin,

If this man is into humiliating bad behavior to discourage it and not just exploiting it the same as the solicitor himself, then he should approach them, tell them they have been filmed and ask them to sign a release, as would anyone else using the picture of a stranger as a model for monetary gain. For those johns who would be mortified to have been discovered, this would be enough for them to be cautious next time (unless of course they are under the influence of alcoholor or drugs which is a separate offense) to avoid detection.

This is not the same as publishing the votes of congressmen, after all.

Robin Brooks
Fullerton, CA

Anonymous said...

As with most do-gooders and busy bodies, this guy who video-tapes supposed clients of prostitutes should be taken off the streets and put in jail for being a public nuisance. We have too many people who think they are the arbiter of right and wrong and this nut will likely meet with some alleged client who either assaults him or sues him for false accusation. I am surprised the police have not hauled him off for causing a public spectacle.

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Anonymous said...

After 9/11, most people have pretty much lowered their expectation of what is considered private and secure. If these men were on a public walkway, there probably already was a surveillance bank, hotel, or liquor store camera already monitoring their actions. What I find troublesome is this man marketing and profiting from these images. Does he have a large poster proclaiming his intent? Is he fuzzing out their faces on the website? Is he protected by an Amendment? Hopefully he has good hospital insurance-he is taking a huge risk.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Seglin:

Let's hope that none of us who have ever gotten lost in a big city and asked a stranger (think: a woman who we do not know, who may be a prostitute -- come to think of it, the person photographing the encounter may not know this either) for directions, get photographed by a creep trying to capture people talking to strangers so he/she can sell the video (sans discussion??) to ????

This is a pretty lame occupation, don't you think? Does the term "Get a life!" ring a bell?

Moral of this story: Only ask people with cameras for directions and, preferably, heterosexual couples. There will be a quiz.

Jan Bohren
Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Patrick Burris, Charlotte, NC said...

Public figures generally lack protection from such individuals; however, private citizens have greater rights to privacy unless such recording coincides with a criminal investigation. Perhaps, this matter would best be resolved in a court of law in the respective jurisdiction in accordance with constitutionally substantiated rights.

Patrick Bouvier Fitzgerald Burris, Charlotte, NC

soowee said...

I love this stuff! OF COURSE the videotaping is reprehensible, but whatever is done in public (like soliciting whores) is fair game for exposure. In other words, DON'T BE AN IDIOT!

If someone wants to hook up with whores (like Eliot Spitzer) then do so in private, don't use a credit card, and no last names! Duh!

Perhaps someone will beat the crap out of the videotaper AND the whores will move elsewhere.

Is employer responsible for expense if I might leave?

Every couple of years, Lil (not her real name, but let's call her "Lil") has to renew her professional license with her s...