San Jose cops spent a few days posing as prostitutes and prospective clients last month to bust on suspicion of buying and selling sex. The prostitution sting around Oak and South First streets resulted in criminal citations for 27 suspects—most of them “johns” and none suspected of human trafficking. SJPD then published their names, ages and cities of residence in addition to six women suspected of turning tricks. Like a growing number of police agencies throughout the country, SJPD is punishing sex workers and their so-called “johns” by outing them online. Critics of the shame game often liken the practice to latter-day stocks, the medieval tool for public humiliation, and the internet to a public square. What makes the ploy controversial to privacy advocates including American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Rowland, however, is that the crime—an especially stigmatized one, at that—is merely alleged at this point. “The government may be justified in broadly publicizing an accusation of a crime when it is trying to locate a suspect or protect the public,” she tells Fly. “But when law enforcement’s motivation for digitally publicizing the details of someone’s arrest is rooted in a desire to maximize page clicks or to shame an individual who is innocent in the eyes of the law, that is a betrayal of the constitutional values that all government employees should hold dear.” While law enforcement has a right to post mug shots and allegations along with the identities of the suspects, Rowland cautions against the practice as a matter of policy. Orange County holds off on publishing names of people busted for prostitution-related crimes until prosecutors secure a conviction. SJPD spokesman Sgt. Enrique Garcia tells Fly that the agency maintains the right to publish arrest information online as long as it doesn’t interfere with an ongoing investigation. “In this case, the department had received numerous complaints from the community regarding prostitution related activities in the area,” he says. Police have also fielded reports from that neighborhood about assaults, robberies and homicides—including one related to prostitution, Garcia said. San Jose PD publishes identifying details about people suspected of other nonviolent crimes, he adds, pointing to 11 press releases about people arrested on suspicion of sex crimes involving children and one about a San Jose officer arrested for allegedly pilfering weed.