Privacy is Fleeting in the MySpace Age
There has been some good discussion about the extent to which teenagers are leaving permanent "reputational footprints" with their uninhibited use of sites like MySpace. Says Michael Parekh:
it's not just about [teenagers'] behavior on services like MySpace and Facebook, but their conduct all across the web, including services like instant messaging, SMS texting and the like. They are leaving reputational footprints that in many cases will be a matter of permanent record, potentially increasing their reputational mortality.
So it's an important distinction for us to keep in mind, and whenever appropriate, try and get them to "get it".
Here's the thing.
In the context that Michael and Scott Karp are talking about, reputational mortality doesn't matter. It's a pre-1.0 attitude.
The notion of privacy, as it existed pre-1994, is done.
I doubt most teens get this, but it ultimately doesn't matter, because everybody who will be running
the world North America in 20-30 years is leaving reputational footprints about themselves all over the grid.
My college buddy Mitch put it very well in a letter to Canada's National Post, responding to an uproar over pictures of students partying during an annual week-long McGill Management carnival:
We all got drunk and partied, and now we're filing your lawsuits, editing your books and investing your money. (emphasis mine)
I'm no "PrivacyIsDead-nik". But Google isn't getting any dumber, and is in fact making increasing inroads into your life with Google Desktop. Meanwhile, products like the awesome photo search engine Riya and geolocation services like Plazes will surely have unintended privacy consequences down the road.
So, what's the best way to deal with reputational footprints?
If you're judging someone based on a Google search, don't be a hypocrite. Even though there's no permanent footprints of the stupid stuff you've done in your life, it doesn't mean it didn't happen. And you turned out, ok, right?
And if you're posting information about yourself on the internet, realize there could be consequences down the road. But also know that the more you post about yourself online, the fuller the picture you can paint about yourself, and the more people you will reach.
What we're seeing right now is friction between those who believe privacy is possible, and those who likely haven't given it a second thought. It's an important discussion to have, but I think Chris Messina says it well...
It’s too late for paranoia. This is the future and the present; so the only question now is, what do we make of it now that we’re here?
Forget about resisting the inevitable.
The real question is, how are you going to make it work for you?