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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 60 - "Banana Splits" - Business Law and Ethics for your Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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1/7/11

Fellow Weekly - Issue 60

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table.

Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals. To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 159: Banana Split!

After returning from an enjoyable outing and a shopping spree in the heat of the summer at a popular Supermarket, our family sat around the dining room table enjoying ice cream sundaes.

Believe it or not, we let the kids enjoy "desert" before settling down for lunch. My wife preferred the yogurts and fruit cocktail for lunch. She opened her yogurt, took her spoon to her palate when suddenly she stopped in her tracks. "The lightly sweetened yogurts were on sale four for the price of two. We paid for the lightly sweetened, yet someone accidentally took Banana flavor which were more expensive."

1. May we simply pay for the eaten vanilla, return the vanillas to the refrigerator in the store and switch them for lightly sweetened or do we have to tell the cashier and go through an entire run around; and who knows what they will end up charging us?

[Submitted by E. H. Jerusalem]

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org.

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 159: Facebook or Face Off!

Consider this public news story:

"The personal details of 100 million Facebook users have been collected and published online in a downloadable file, meaning they will now be unable to make their publicly available information private.

An online security consultant used code to scan the 500 million Facebook profiles for information not hidden by privacy settings. The file allows people to perform searches of various different types and several thousand people by now downloaded it.

This means that if any of those on the list decide to change their privacy settings on Facebook, anyone who has the file will still be able to access information that was public when it was compiled.

The consultant's actions also mean people who had set their privacy settings so their names did not appear in Facebook's search system can now be found if they were friends with anyone whose name was searchable.

The consultant wrote, "Facebook helpfully informs you "[a]nyone can opt out of appearing here by changing their Search privacy settings" - but that doesn't help much anymore considering I already have them all (and you will too, when you download the torrent).

Once I have the name and URL of a user, I can view, by default, their picture, friends, information about them, and some other details. If the user has set their privacy higher, at the very least I can view their name and picture. Therefore, if any searchable user has friends that are non-searchable, those friends just opted into being searched, like it or not! Oops"

(Source: MSNBC)

1. Was it permissible for the consultant to scan the 500 million profiles not hidden by privacy settings?

2. Was it permissible to post it?

3. Was it permissible for the initial individuals to download the information?

4. Now that the information is publicly available, is it permissible to download the information and to figure out the names of those who hid their information by setting their privacy settings high? Is it ethical?

What is the law?

The Answer

It is forbidden to post the results of the scan. Similarly, it is forbidden to view the information indiscriminately.

Detailed Explanation

Facebook or Face Off implicates an innumerable amount of laws. We will discuss a few of them below.

1. Do not spread bad or damaging reports about your fellow (Leviticus 19: 17) (Deuteronomy 24: 8, 27: 24)

2. Do not spread information that can cause enmity and hatred between two people (Leviticus 19: 17)

3. Do not spread false rumors (Deuteronomy 22: 19)

4. Do not fan disputes (Numbers 17:5)

5. Do not insult, pain, humiliate your fellow (Leviticus 19: 17, 25: 17)

6. Do not pain widows and orphans (Exodus 22: 21, 23)

7. Do not remind a penitent of previous sins thereby insulting him/her (Leviticus 25: 17, Maseches Bava Metzia 58b)

8. Do not do to your friend that which you would not want others to do to you (Leviticus 19; 18)

9. Do not bend an ear listen/read to bad or damaging reports about your fellow (Exodus 23:1)

10. Do not believe bad/damaging reports about your fellow (Exodus 23:1)

11. Do not create a stumbling block or incite/cause your fellow to sin (Leviticus 19, 14)

12. Do not garner honor as a result of your fellow's humiliation ( Deuteronomy 6:12, Yerushalmi Maseches Chagiga 2:1)

13. Do not corroborate with sinners (Exodus 23: 2)

14. Do not divulge classified information with which your friend entrusted you. (Proverbs 11: 13, 20: 19)

15. Do not fool another individual (Leviticus 19: 11, Sma"g 154)

Application:

The millions of Facebook walls include an immeasurable amount of gossip, damaging information, and information if made public can cause the breakdown of relationships, marriages, partnerships, fan disputes, humiliate people and pain widows, orphans etc.

Spreading, listening, reading, and accepting this information is evil and is counted amongst the gravest sins. Posting and indiscriminately viewing the forbidden information, one transgresses an innumerable amount of such sins.

[In fact, before going on anyone's Facebook wall or reading a news clip for that matter; one must realize that there is a risk of transgressing many such colossal sins should one read the wrong type of information.]

One may not remind a penitent of original bad deeds. Take for example a sinner who had a low privacy setting. Years later she repents and raises her setting. The consultant continues to avail the original information to the public is guilty of gossip and insulting a penitent.

Posting the information lures downloaders to sin. Downloading the information gives credence and is like corroborating with a sinner. Becoming a hero over a fellow's downfall is forbidden.

It would appear as though the consultant however did not transgress the prohibition to disclose secrets.

"It is forbidden to disclose information that a person told you about himself/herself in confidence." A person is the "owner" of his or her private information. [Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus 8: 5] However, once information is not a secret, disclosing it to others would not be a transgression of this prohibition. One has to understand that any information he or she posts on Facebook, even with the highest privacy settings are not "told in confidence." As such, while the consultant made the information more readily available, at least he is not guilty of disclosing private information. Nevertheless, as delineated above, the consultant transgressed numerous grave sins and anyone who downloads the file, indiscriminately searches the pages and views the information risks transgressing these sins as well.

If Facebook led you to buy into the fact that no "security consultant" would act in such a manner, they could be guilty of fooling their clients.

[Answered by the Fellow -Yesharim Research Center]

Note: Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

A project of Fellow-Yesharim

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