Posting someone else's email address on a public website. Is it legal?
April 22, 2005 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Is it legal to post someone else's email address on a public website?

Is there any privacy laws (or other laws) in place that prevent a person from publishing the email address of another person on a public website? I've searched and found some threads elsewhere although I'm still not entirely confident with my findings.
posted by sjvilla79 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect the answer to your question will vary considerably depending on your legal jurisdiction, the public web site's legal jurisdiction, the other person's legal jurisdiction, the conditions under which you obtained the other person's e-mail address, whether or not the other person enjoys either special legal protections, if the other person is a public figure, etc. In addition, by "legal" do you mean "not a criminal act" or "will not subject me to civil remedy"?

If you reside in the US, the other person resides in the US, and you obtained the other person's e-mail address legally, then you are likely not committing a criminal act if you post their email address to a server physically located in the US. However, some jurisdictions in the US have passed ordinances that make it a crime to publish certain private details about law enforcement officers. I don't know if any of these ordinances cover e-mail addresses. In addition, it is my understanding that the constitutionality of such ordinances has been questioned.
posted by RichardP at 7:14 AM on April 22, 2005


I'd be curious to know which laws would apply, considering the Intarweb != the USA.

I would guess your ability to sue would be based on the context of the email posting. If you're reposting an otherwise publically available email address, and the context is not disparaging to that person (i.e. "Soandso is a jerk! And here's his/her email address!"), then I don't see it as a problem. IANAL.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:31 AM on April 22, 2005


Legal doesn't necessarily mean moral, either. It may be legal to post the email (I have no idea one way or the other, but I'd suspect it is), but if you subject them to the spammers of the world, it's certanly not moral.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:50 AM on April 22, 2005


if you subject them to the spammers of the world, it's certanly not moral.

If they're a spammer/phisher/scammer/chain letter MMF fool.... I've got no problem subjecting them to the same.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2005


If they're a spammer/phisher/scammer/chain letter MMF fool.... I've got no problem subjecting them to the same.

Well, yeah, but the original question didn't say they were, or that their intent was to seek revenge. For all we know it's something as harmless as "if you're interested in voulenteering, email john@doe.com" or something.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:18 AM on April 22, 2005


Have you asked the person whose email you want to post whether s/he wants it posted? Just curious. IANAL, but my gut feeling is: if it's private information, keep it private; if it's public already, it's fine to post it to the public again; otherwise, ask.
posted by Tuwa at 8:49 AM on April 22, 2005


Well as someone who has had my email, address and phone number published to a religious forum discussing the "ShameFest" Gay Pride Fest here in town, I can tell you that it's not illegal, but MAN does it suck.

See also, Zabasearch.com where name, birth year, address and phone numbers are up for grabs.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:00 AM on April 22, 2005


it's probably legal, especially if they've already publically posted it somewhere ... but it's not very nice ...

i've never heard of anyone being sued or prosecuted for it, but i've seen a lot of people get upset about it
posted by pyramid termite at 10:47 AM on April 22, 2005


FlamingBore - that site is just plain scary.
posted by bh at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2005


As folks above have mention, intent does matter, morally if not legally. If you want to publish the address for a good reason (as mentioned above, for example, to help recruit volunteers) then at least you should obsure the address a bit (john at doe dot com, for example, or an image, rather than john@doe.com) so you're not helping spammers harvest the address.

If you want to publish the address for a bad reason (as in, I think this person deserves hate mail and/or spam), then you should also consider the bad karma (and other bad things) that might accrue to you from doing so.
posted by WestCoaster at 12:15 PM on April 22, 2005


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