Friday, August 13, 2010

THINK before you POST - You may forget, but the web has perfect memory and universal indexing

This article is a few weeks old (I'm still catching up from vacation on some news sites) and it's somewhat lengthy (at least in terms of web articles). Still, it's an interesting read.

I see two main, related, themes:

  1. The Internet "remembers" all of your actions...good and you'd better "think before you post"
  2. Privacy and reputation are a big concern on the web - but we can't (and shouldn't) rely fully on the technology and the sites to protect us

The article brings up a number of examples of people being fired, passed over for raised, or otherwise "discriminated against" because someone "Googled them" and found some skeletons in the closet...or in some cases, some skeletons sitting at the table eating dinner with them.

With the explosion of Web 2.0 technology and the rise of "social networking", more and more people have a huge online presence...and many of them aren't even aware of what that means, let alone that it exists.

I've seen a number of "Dateline" stories about "protecting our children's privacy online" but I found it interesting that this article suggests that younger people are actually more concerned and aware of their online privacy than the older generations. And I can see why...the younger crowd is so totally immersed in the online community. They know that they can search for and find information about their friends easily and they are thus instinctively aware that information they post will be out there about they are cautious. Older adults on the other hand are still caught up in the novelty, the fun, the experience and they are less likely to think that THEY have influence on controlling their privacy by monitoring what they post and how they post it.

I'm not saying we should back off on the "protect the children" mindset...but I think we need to be sure we also focus those lectures on ANYBODY online who isn't yet savvy about the privacy implications.

One thing that also gets me, and has bugged me for months and months (every time Facebook "breaches privacy") is that people complain that the various technologies and sites are wholly responsible for protecting individual privacy. From what I've seen, there are very few "required" elements when signing up for social media accounts and those required fields are usually wholly or at least significantly able to be hidden. The "private" stuff that people complain about being shared...are the OPTIONAL things that individuals can add themselves. If you're concerned that somebody may find out what city you live in...don't include your city (or find the option to hide it...which is almost always going to be there). If you're worried about who may see your photos online, don't upload them instead. Or upload them to a more "premium" service where you have full control over who you share them with.

(As a side note - if you're uploading a photo that is in any way embarrassing or self-compromising, you may want to consider thinking before you ACT in "real life"...just a thought)

Granted, I have sometimes seen instances where a website has shared by default something that should have remained private. But by and large, these sites are aware of privacy concerns and they don't want to open a hornets nest. At the same time, these "social" sites exist for the purpose of a community...and if you want to exist in a community, you are by definition "going public" at least to some extent.

The hazard, as is pointed out in the article, is that the web has perfect/eternal memory and immense "indexing" and "cross-referencing" capabilities. So while you could walk around a park or a mall and be largely being in an online community, all it takes is a few keystrokes to cross-reference your profile from one community with your activity elsewhere on the web.

This again reiterates the need to THINK before you ACT...especially online. Take control of your online IDENTITY by taking control of your BEHAVIOR.


Brian Miller said...

a very real post...i had to let someone go one time from a sensitive position because o what they put on their facebook....

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm very careful what I post online. I value my privacy.

Southpaw said...

So true. We have to be careful with what we put online.

Cheeseboy said...

So your saying I probably should remove my Social Security number from my facebook page?

Eric W. Trant said...

This is so true. I have to watch it on Facebook because sometimes I post up something that is politically charged or opinionated. I've been careful on my blog about avoiding inflammatory topics, but for some reason I run to FB when I get heated up.

Gotta watch that...

- Eric

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I think it's pretty safe to say, if you don't want everyone knowing about it, don't put it online.

Unknown said...

Good stuff. Thanks for the reminder. =D

Anonymous said...

So once again we see that the universe stores all information. Nothing is lost. It may be transformed into something different, but never destroyed altogehter.

Stephen Tremp

Mariam Hakim said...

True! Wish people on facebook thought the same.. Great post :) & thank you for stopping by my blog :)