One response to this post’s title is that quite a lot of people have irresponsibly open Facebook profiles that expose these kind of personal details for all to see on the open internet (or for anyone to access with only a few minutes effort). But what about involuntary disclosure?
Let’s be clear: I’m no fan of the British National Party. It beggars belief that there’s a market for such narrow-mindedness. The party’s policies and its members’ views veer towards ideologies and mindsets that are exclusive, intolerant, with a heavy dose of historical revisionism - all serving to devalue humanity.
But it’s a political party, and it’s not proscribed. And while I don’t like it, it’s perfectly legal to be a member. Though it does seems to be more embarrassing to be "outed" as a BNP member than if you were a member of the Alliance or Labour parties.
And its members don’t deserve to have their personal details - names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, occupations - posted all across the internet. It’s an unwarranted invasion of their privacy.
Some people and addresses listed may be targeted with less-than-friendly communications over the coming weeks and months. It’s also an out-of-date list (accurate to Nov-Dec 2007) that won’t reflect people who’ve changed their minds and given up their membership. And it is difficult to be sure that non-members haven’t been maliciously added to the list before publication. So innocent people may suffer too.
I’m not sure if there is a silver lining to this particular cloud. The publication of the membership details will probably open up a debate about the ethics and stand of the BNP. The oxygen of publicity could galvanise support as well as expose majority opposition.
But I fear that the BNP will be driven into greater obscurity with decreased accountability and significantly less visibility of their party actions and policies. Driving the BNP underground will not be a good thing.
There will probably also be a debate on the circumstances in which certain professions can ban affiliation political parties - whether a total ban or some difficult justification of why particular (legal) party membership can be prohibited (as is the case for police officers and prison warders).
Of course, the inevitability is that the news cycle will quickly move on ... and already the next controversy is hitting the headlines - John Sergeant is pulling out of Strictly Come Dancing!