When Washington, D.C., was buried in snow last week, one suburban Maryland school alerted parents via robocall that they would be opening two hours late. The call, hypothetically letting parents know that they could sleep in that day, went out at 4:30 a.m.
That angered privacy lawyer Aaron Titus. His well-told tale of revenge reverberated around the media last week, thanks to a story in the Washington Post. Titus went Robocop on the school, using an online robocalling company to place a 4:30 a.m. call to the home phones of nine school board members, the school superintendent, and the school’s chief lawyer the next day, letting them know he hadn’t appreciated the early morning wake-up call. (The school said it made a mistake in setting the time for the calls and that it should have gone out at the immensely more reasonable hours of 5 or 6 a.m.)
Titus tweeted that he was following the Golden Rule. Meanwhile, other laws were possibly ignored…
Titus taped the following for his revengeful robocall message (which you can listen to on Gawker):
“This is a Prince George’s County School District parent, calling to thank you for the robocall yesterday at 4:30 in the morning. I decided to return the favor. While I know the school district wanted to ensure I drop my child off two hours late on a snow day, I already knew that before I went to bed. I hope this call demonstrates why a 4:30 a.m. call does more to annoy than to inform. Quit robocalling parents at 4:30 in the morning or at least allow us to opt out of these intrusive calls.”
Titus became an overnight — or early morning, rather — folk hero. Preventing a public institution from sending him robot calls is right in line with Titus’s professional calling. As tracked down by the ABA Journal, the GW Law grad is a privacy officer at Identity Finder — a company that offers software to help keep personal information on your computer secure and private. He’s also a director of a nonprofit called the Liberty Coalition, devoted to preserving civil liberties, personal autonomy and individual privacy. (Of course, he didn’t think much of the school officials’ privacy when he tracked down their home phone numbers.)
He may be a hero to other sleep-deprived parents, but fellow lawyers have pointed out that his robocall trick may have violated the law…