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?

*Awesome image by TWM

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Comments (Post | Latest)

1. Michael Parekh said on Mar 19 2006:

Like the optimistic take on this issue. Hope it turns out that way.

2. Chris Messina said on Mar 19 2006:

Michael -- it is more or less for us to determine how it goes. There are inevitably bad actors all over the place, but living in fear, making decisions out of fear, protecting your privacy out of fear or shame is what got us into this mess in the first place.

I refuse to live my life in fear -- it's too short and hard enough for that. Privacy is only one aspect of the equation -- publicity, and what we are able to do once we have all this data available to us as individuals -- is when things will really start getting interesting because, y'know what?, we're gunna be the ones calling the shots about how our data is used and shared -- the good stuff that is. Once you commoditize the behavioral stuff and everyone has access to it, it's going to be the mano-e-mano connections to people -- the real intimacy -- that will earn trust, earn power, earn respect and dignity.

3. Tino Buntic said on Mar 19 2006:

I had a friend once reply to me that he couldn't believe I have pictures of myself on the internet (respectable pictures, I might add). I ask him why and he says "you just don't do that."

There's this whole privacy paranaia associated with the internet. I think it's ludicrous.

This friend is the same guy that put an add in a local newspaper to advertise his services (insurance broker). He had a photo of himself, name, and phone number. What's the difference? Why are a lot of people paranoid about personal information on the "internet" but not anywhere else. It just doesn't make sense to me.

4. Michael Parekh said on Mar 20 2006:

It's how most people have been "programmed" culturally. It'll likely take a generation or so to change.

It will change, but the pace will likely be slow when you're talking about hundreds of millions mainstream people.

5. student management guy said on Sep 19 2006:

The creepiness climbs when you know that most "delete" buttons don't delete. Emails, comments, or any other kind of record is archived, waiting to be accidently released or hacked.

About

Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

Contact: blog -at- reemer

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