"Is this a landmark moment for free speech online, with Twitter handing over confidential details of a user for the first time?" asks Rory Cellan-Jones, after Twitter's release of user information in a Californian court to lawyers acting for South Tyneside Council.
Even if it's not that significant per se, a trend is developing, it seems. 'Something must be done' seems the prevailing atmosphere. How else to maintain people's right to privacy and reputation? Yes, public figures may be legitimately open to more scrutiny than others, but untramelled on the present scale? It's not sustainable.
Say you're a footballer, or a TV presenter, or a musician, or an actor - why should we know that you have strange sexual habits, are unfaithful to your wife, or don't hold politically correct views about race, homosexuality or the disabled? We don't parade the non-famous around, publicly shaming them for such peccadilloes - what possible role does it play at the societal level?
Now the Profumo card can always be played: ie, such revelations could lead to information of public relevance. Well yes, it can. But so could approaching children in playgrounds, asking if they've noticed any strange people hanging around the school (like burglars, or paedophiles), but do we do that?
Then there's the 'don't do it if you don't want to be caught' card. Well, again, on paper that sounds fine. But who among us would allow 24 hr scrutiny of their life, to the public, where any single digression from accepted (if not widely upheld) morality is splashed all over the front pages?
Third, the 'character in one area bleeds into public role' card. Say a politician champions public education, in his role as education minisiter. Revealing that this man/woman sends their own child to a private school is in the public interest, yes, but how many of these stories have such potent hypocrisy? Few. What about if a person has an affair, then, lying to their partner? He/she is less competent, then, to run a government department, to present television programmes, to play sport at national level, but not to work in a factory where they can siphon off goods and sell it on the side, or teach children lies about the world, or coerce the elderly into signing away their lives in care homes? People digress from moral norms all the time. Some are illegal. Are they automatically devoid of good character traits because of them? Or professional competency?
It may be hard to get any remedy for these breaches of privacy and reputation rights at the moment, lacking a statutory framework for doing so. But justice demands it.
PS: the Moral Maze was on this topic last week