Brian Baugh, the University of North Texas senior behind the "Denton Police" Twitter account, says his project began with his surprise at how much information is out there about each of us online. Not just the party photos on Facebook, the home address in the people search or your Twitter update about the Lean Cuisine in the microwave -- but what happens when all that information comes together in one easy-to-find place.
Baugh, who studies photography at UNT, says he was inspired by new media art projects like We Feel Fine, a mash-up of blog entries with the words "I feel" layered with information about the author like their gender, their location and what the weather was like at the time.
When he saw the Denton Police Jail Record online, he says, he wondered where he'd find out if anyone he knew had been arrested and how long that would take. Pulling information from the public site and pushing it on a Twitter account he opened, he created a new, easier way to keep tabs on who's getting pinched. "I thought it would just be a thing with my friends," he says.
"I guess I'm happy that it got popular," Baugh says. "I didn't expect that to happen. I thought it would just be a thing with my friends."
As we wrote earlier, there's an effort underway from Denton's city attorneys to get the feed shut down, which Baugh finds ironic since it's all public information anyway. "The only way they might shut it down is if they wanted to use the account for themselves."
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As with most dust-ups between the law and the Internet, the practical effect of any legal challenges would be pretty limited. "If someone was wanting to use the information maliciously, it's already out there," Baugh points out. "At this point it's too late to put it back in the bottle."