Facebook page names, shames shoplifters

By Kristin Macfarlane -
An internet safety spokesman labelled the page as a gossip page that could breach human rights. Photo / Thinkstock
An internet safety spokesman labelled the page as a gossip page that could breach human rights. Photo / Thinkstock

A Facebook page set up to name and shame Rotorua shoplifters with personal photos has been set up and taken down - but not without hundreds of people seeing it first.

The page, called Rotorua Shoplifters, encouraged the city's shop owners and managers who had caught people stealing to send the details to the page's administrator. The administrator would then name and shame the alleged shoplifter with a photograph of them.

An internet safety spokesman labelled the page as a gossip page that could breach human rights.

Within four hours of it being created it had attracted more than 310 likes. However, Facebook friends of those people who had liked the page could have seen the page.

Posts of people the page claimed were thieves had attracted many comments, including from those being named and shamed. At least one of those people accused admitted to shoplifting when she saw her photo but said it happened when she was a primary school student and she was now in her 20s.

Another woman labelled a shoplifter denied the accusation.

According to the "about" section of the page it claimed it was created to help Rotorua retailers identify shoplifters who had been caught stealing from various Rotorua and Bay of Plenty shops.

The page warned "Don't STEAL if you don't want to be NAMED and SHAMED".

McLeod's Booksellers manager Fraser Newman said while he would support better communication between police and retailers about shoplifters, he wouldn't support such a Facebook page. He said it could attract abuse.

Netsafe chief technical officer Sean Lyons said the page could breach a person's rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

He said anyone who was accused of shoplifting but hadn't actually been convicted would have had their human rights breached.

"It is a fine line."

Mr Lyons said the fact that people's personal Facebook photos were used rather than security footage made it seem like nothing more than a gossip Facebook site.

He said when police released information about wanted members of the public or shops printed security footage of alleged thieves, there was usually strong evidence against them.

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