When No Dog Poop is an Island

I’ve twice heard co-blogger Dan Solove talk about the Korean “dog poop girl,” a woman hounded by internet shamers when she refused to clean up after her dog on a Seoul subway. The first time I heard the story I just found it funny, but at a conference earlier this year the tone of the audience was different. I felt bad about laughing at some internet satires of the woman that Dan had put on powerpoint slides. Part of it may have been the theme of the conference (legal responses to cyberharassment), but perhaps a larger cultural turning point is in the works.

Surveillance has now advanced to the point that a city in Israel is starting “dog poop DNA banks,” enabling enforcers to (potentially) identify the source of any offending rubbish:

[V]eterinarian Tika Bar-On . . . says she hopes to make DNA banking mandatory for all dog owners. At that point, instead of a practice of positive reinforcement, she imagines a system involving sidewalk poop patrols and penalties for nonscoopers. For Bar-On, this is about more than waste elimination: “We can use this DNA database for important things like genetic research on dog diseases,” she says. “We could also use DNA to identify strays and return them to their parents.” But until then, she’s focusing on feces because, as she says, “when you go to the park with your kids and they meet dog poop, it’s not very pleasant.”

My guess is that most Americans would resist the central planning implicit in this solution. But if the alternative to statism is vigilantism, it may start looking more attractive. Like trademark in the commercial realm, DNA here may be the best way to identify source in an orderly way.

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