A jury just found Dharun Ravi guilty of all 15 counts against him in the webcam spying case of his former roommate. His former roommate committed suicide after learning that his liaison with another man was video recorded by Ravi.
As expected, Ravi was found guilty of invasion of privacy, but he was also convicted of the greater crime of intimidation, which is a hate crime. Unfortunately for the defendant, he faces as many as 10 years in prison and possible deportation.
The case brings up important questions about privacy in the internet age. Tyler Clementi, Ravi’s former roommate, was so wounded by the fact that a number of other students saw the webcam video that he chose to end his young life. There are real and significant injuries to people who are very vulnerable. I get how this case has the national attention that it does.
However, there are also many examples of videos that are posted which cause similar harm. Embarrassing video of people doing embarrassing things make their way of the web every day. If these incidents happened in the public sphere, then there is no real legal consequence.
You hear experts talk about the fact that with technology there is no real privacy anymore. It turns out that for the rarest of cases, there still is privacy. However, the gulf that exists between the norm and the Dharun Ravi case is gigantic.
So here’s my point. People’s privacy is violated every day and absolutely nothing happens. Dharun Ravi violates Tyler Clementi’s privacy and he is probably going to prison and then get shipped out of the country. I would hope that the double-standard would be addressed by someone. It isn’t ok to violate anyone’s privacy and my guess is that there are some corporations out there that have committed much greater sins than Mr. Ravi. The CEOs of those companies aren’t headed to jail anytime soon.
Nick Alcock is a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, Arizona
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