The Illusion of Privacy

The launch of Google Buzz this week has once again brought questions of privacy and social networking applications to the forefront.  Just as many of us have questioned over the past few years the repeated failure of Facebook to respect our privacy.

To my mind, this is a very simple thing: never post anything to any networking service that you wouldn’t want to see again.  Ever…

People have lost jobs over what they have posted on Facebook and elsewhere.  I have seen it several times personally.  Further, at some point you may need to search for a new job.  A prospective employer may see that photo of you doing belly shots off that Asian hooker in Vegas last year, and bang, you don’t get a call back.  In other words, it’s hurt you, badly, and you never even know it.

So right now, I bet a lot of you are saying “no problem, I’ll just clean up my profile if I need to do a job search.”  The problem is that content often gets scraped off sites and turns up in other places.  My content from this blog is regularly grabbed by sploggers and reposted elsewhere.  It’s almost impossible to get the content removed.  I’ve tried.  Further, to take our Vegas analogy further, what happens if Google grabs that picture in their image search?  Many bloggers use that service to find pictures to reusue, regardless of copyright.  What would you think if your little Vegas picture appeared here?

Remember this: any semblance of privacy online is an illusion.  From the beginning, your ISP could be logging what you do, Archive.org could be archiving the sites you post on, and Google could be indexing the images you post.  Once it’s out there, you have no hope of pulling the information back.  So think twice…and don’t put your faith in Facebook, Google or anyone else to respect your privacy.

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