The Ethics of Valleywag

Tonight at STIRR I left my cell phone on the table and walked away for five minutes.

When I come back a co-worker told me that a certain Valleywag employee had picked up my cell phone and started going through it looking at my contacts.

Man. Talk about a huge lack of ethics.

Update:

Valleywag just picked this up.

I posted a long comment which they haven’t yet published.

I’m writing a blog post on the subject right now.

Update 2:

Read this post if you want the full story:

Update 3:

Jonathan says Megan is not telling the truth:

Megan. You did not pick it up to find it’s owner. You saw it asked me if it was my phone, I said no it was Kevin’s, then you picked it up and started to go though it. I did not have issue with you picking it up in the first place as I assumed you just wanted to look at the phone as a gadget. It was when you started to go thought the phone book that I asked you to give it to me. You refused then when I reached for it you moved a way. This was not the actions of a altruistic but curious person. I did not get the phone from you until I physically wrenched it from your fingers. If you think what you did was fair game, fine, but don’t fabricate a story to cover up your tracks.


  1. Kevin, as I remarked to you privately, you should rename the post title to reflect that these are my “ethics”, as an individual, not whomever is paying my paycheck this month. Call me out by name. Or is it only my employer who matters here? If I were a Google employee, would you have bothered to post anything? Would it have phased you?

    Secondly, dude, you left your goddamn phone right on the table and walked away, leaving it unattended. That was sloppy. Since you had been comparing it a moment before with friend who had an identical model, I originally picked it up to see who it belonged to, and give it back to the rightful owner. Once I realize it was yours, curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see your contact list. Not your emails, not your text messages, I just wanted to see who you know. Why? Sheer curiosity. (“Wonder how many friends we have in common…”)

    Saying I have a “huge lack of ethics” because of this incident is ludicrous. At most, what I did was impolite, not unethical. There is a difference.

  2. I’ll make sure to look through your purse next time. It’s not unethical. I’m just curious.

    Seriously…. if you leave your goddamn purse unattended it’s your fault. Just sloppy.

    :)

  3. Megan, guess what — when you attend a public function on behalf of a publication, the way you comport yourself reflects on both you and the publication. You’ve made yourself and Valleywag look like rank amateurs here.

    It is absolutely unethical to rifle through someone’s personal stuff. But more importantly, it’s boneheaded to do so when you know that person is in the room. What’s wrong with you?

  4. mtourneau

    I think she meant “fazed,” not “phased.” So she’s not only unethical and profane, but semi-literate.

  5. Megan – I think this was a bad decision and you shouldn’t have done it. The fact is your employer applauds this kind of behavior, and in fact there is a post at valleywag talking about it and taking a sort of random additional swipe at Kevin as well.

  6. Ted

    Megan, you’re dead wrong on this one. Why are you so belligerent about it, you’re clearly an unethical little snoop playing ‘reporter’. The fact that you a. try to blame Kevin for putting his phone down for a second and b. try to spin it as “impolite”. Yes, it’s highly impolite and it’s also a huge violation of privacy, which makes it unethical since you were at the event as a reporter.

  7. If it was a genuine look for whgo’s phoen it was, that’s fine. But the second it appeared on Valleywag as a story, then the ethics kick in. Surely this is the electronic equivalent of dumpster diving for a ‘feature exclusive?’

  8. Thomas

    Megan,
    Into the Don Imus penalty box, now! Bambi will be leading this month’s lessons on “How to effectively hide your ethical lapses from the public.” Pay attention!
    Bad, Megan, bad!

  9. reader

    this isn’t surprising in the least, no one from Gawker has any ethical standards at all. they consistently cross all sorts of lines, whether it’s violating someone’s privacy or accepting favors in exchange for editorial. the only question is whether they’ll actually suffer any consequences for their bad behavior.

  10. Kevin,

    Two things (and as your friend, I’ll just be curt for the sake of brevity):

    1) Nobody cares about the contacts on your cell phone. Let’s be honest about that.

    2) If it were me I’d be looking at the pictures you take with your camera phone and not your contacts. As long as I’m in your phone, I’m happy.

    3) It could have easily been me. I don’t have an expectation of privacy on very many things but if I wanted privacy on my phone I’d lock it with a password. All phones let you do that. If you care, use the tools provided.

    -david

  11. /pd

    Like tom peter’s sez.. you represent yourself and your company always 24x.. your actions is a reflections of the company too !!

    I’m fully with Kevin on this one. I would be furious, regardless if I found someone taking a peek into my contacts /emails w/out permission.

    “At most, what I did was impolite, not unethical. ”

    eh ?? I dunna what to say other then.. make something idiot proof and the world makes a better idiot !!

  12. Random Reader

    If the biggest to news to ever hit your blog is the fact that someone snooped in your cell phone…

    Dude. Seriously. Get over it.

    I think the fact that you spy on other people’s IMs WAY snoopy. And the fact that you do it pick up chics…

    Man. Talk about ethics. Or lacking therof.

  13. Random Reader.

    For the record I don’t consider this as a HUGE ethical violation. I still like Megan … It’s just a bit annoying.

    Second. You need to read the comments on that Valleywag article. I didn’t spy on anyone.

    I’m working on a response. Don’t believe everything you read on Valleywag.

  14. Random Reader

    Sorry, Kevin. My bad about the snooping comment. I’ll go read the Valleywag comments.

    I would agree with your friend above about locking your cell phone.

    Personally, I just can’t imagine anyone being that nervy. What was she hoping to find? Brad Pitt on speed dial?

  15. A couple thoughts:

    1) It is unethical to snoop through someones personal things. Period. Whether you do it on your own or as a representitive of an org doesn’t matter. It’s just bad form all the way around. Even worse because you got caught doing it……

    2) As was previously mentioned, if there is personal information that you want to remain personal, practice the things that will KEEP that infortmation personal:

    A. Do NOT walk off and leave your things unattended.

    B. Always secure your personal items in some manner, i.e. passwords for phones, lock cables for laptops, etc.

    3) Kevin, I have to say that if I were someone that you knew and I found out that you left your phone unattended with my personal contact information inside of it, I’d be EXTREMELY pissed at you. I might even be re-evaluating if I should continue conducting business with you. True, what Megan did was un-called for and un-ethical, but leaving your phone out in the open like that is also bad form and frankly, sloppy.

  16. Hey Viperteq.

    I should clarify. My cell phone was behind the LCD that we were using to project our product.

    I didn’t leave it unattended. We also had an employee at our booth who was the one who busted Megan. He was right there. She just picked it up when he wasn’t looking.

  17. Matt Ellsworth

    I don’t know what Valleywag is, but I don’t think it is classy to make this a public issue.

    If Megan steals your phone, then post about it on your blog.

    Besides, your blog is “Dedicated to RSS, Atom, Aggregation, Tags, and Feed technology.”

    I think their reply is trash too.

    Clean it up.

  18. a

    It’s sloppy to have expectations that people don’t go through your stuff? This isn’t an issue about keeping personal information secure–since there’s no sensitive information that seems to have come out. It’s about whether or not it’s unethical to go through someone’s stuff given any opportunity to do so. Of course it is unethical. The points about ‘locking the phone’ are just irrelevant. ‘Trying’ to scavenge through someone’s phone is unethical.

  19. spete

    Two things about the response to this incident that I find slightly worrisome:

    1) The “blame the victim” response (i.e. it’s your fault because you were sloppy/didn’t lock your phone)

    2) That some people think it’s bad to snoop, but worse to get caught

  20. Jonathan

    Megan. You did not pick it up to find it’s owner. You saw it asked me if it was my phone, I said no it was Keven’s, then you picked it up and started to go though it. I did not have issue with you picking it up in the first place as I assumed you just wanted to look at the phone as a gadget. It was when you started to go thought the phone book that I asked you to give it to me. You refused then when I reached for it you moved a way. This was not the actions of a altruistic but curious person. I did not get the phone from you until I physically wrenched it from your fingers. If you think what you did was fair game, fine, but don’t fabricate a story to cover up your tracks.

  21. Ted

    Megan has just been proven by Jonathan to be a liar, on top of being unethical and annoying.

    It’s not the biggest deal in the world by any means, but it pisses me off. What she should have done is personally apologized to Kevin, not made all kinds of bullshit spin-ster excuses.

  22. Cross-check

    Just an observation…

    Megan wrote: “… these are my “ethics”, as an individual, not whomever is paying my paycheck this month. Call me out by name. Or is it only my employer who matters here?”

    It seems rather funny for Megan to be saying this when the URL linked to her name (maybe via Typepad profile) is http://www.valleywag.com

    Assuming that she setup that association, it tends to weaken her argument about how she doesn’t desire her own actions and words to reflect upon her employer.






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