Here's the full post on Nick Bilton that the NYTPicker removed for some reason today. It had a timestamp of Monday, March 4, 2010, 8:11 a.m. ET:
NYT Technology columnist Nick Bilton-- who writes the paper's "Bits" blog and appears regularly on ABC News's "World News Tonight" -- wrote yesterday that when a person suspects their "significant other" of cheating, it's perfectly okay to look through their private email accounts, Facebook page and cell phone.
That's assuming they've left their accounts unlocked, of course. Sadly for suspicious spouses who now look to Bilton for inspiration, the NYT tech guru gave no hints on how to crack our loved ones' passwords.
Bilton's NYT "Bits" blog post followed up on questions of web etiquette he discussed with the anchor on Monday. ABC anchor Diane Sawyer (who refers to Bilton as "the wizard") had casually brought up email privacy, but Bilton's televised answer didn't fully address the issue.
"It gets a little murky," Bilton told Sawyer, when she pressed him on email privacy.
But Bilton got a bit more definitive when he posted his thoughts later on Bits, at 3:32 p.m. yesterday afternoon:
Another topic that arose during our conversation was, is it O.K. to look at someone else’s mobile phone, e-mail or Facebook account if it’s left out and unlocked? And what if the account or phone belongs to a spouse?
I told Ms. Sawyer that it’s important for couples to have their own personal identities online, but that can change when it comes to questions of infidelity. In a situation where someone suspects the significant other of being unfaithful, snooping is justified.
Um, sorry, Nick, but as several commenters noted on your post, this isn't a question of etiquette, but of ethics.
"To confirm a breach of trust you're advocating a (possibly preemptive) breach of trust?" a reader named Robert asked rather eloquently.
It appears Nick Bilton didn't bother to think through his "ends justify the means" logic -- 0r the fact that he was posting his position as a NYT authority on such matters.
In an era where possible threats to our personal privacy run rampant -- thanks in large part to the technology he chronicles, and so passionately believes in -- it's more important than ever for us to respect that privacy.