Does Privacy Exist On the Internet?


Does privacy exist on the Internet?



No, no–I’m not talking about the recent NSA surveillance scandal. I’m talking about the fact that despite what you might like to believe, nothing you say online is private. The Internet is changing the way we think about privacy. That one mean thing that you said on Twitter can come back to haunt you at any time. Don’t assume that anything you post, no matter when it was posted, will be overlooked.

Differing perceptions of internet privacy can likely be attributed to different generations. While my younger generation grew up with the internet and seem to have no expectation of privacy online, older generations aren’t used to everything about their lives being broadcasted on the internet. It may seem like common sense for me not to post anything online that I wouldn’t want the world to see, but that way of thinking has not yet extended to everyone.

The problem

The Internet is an immense place. So-called ‘Internet archaeologists’ are digging up websites from 1992. Like a diamond, the internet is forever, and even deleting something from the internet doesn’t really mean it’s gone.

What all of this means is that even one post–one slip-up–online can lead to negative implications for you and/or your business.

A few examples:

▪   Just recently, NYU professor Geoffrey Miller landed himself in some trouble after he told “obese PhD applicants” that they wouldn’t have the power to finish dissertations if they “didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs.” His profile is private now, but his statements are absolutely not.

▪   Two years ago, a now infamous tweet made over Chrysler’s Twitter account stated the following: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f****** drive.” The employee who made the tweet was fired and Chrysler received quite a bit of heat for the incident. Yikes.

▪   Amoy, a soy sauce maker from Hong Kong, landed themselves in a bit of trouble with an uncomfortable Facebook campaign. The page has since been taken down, but some mention Amoy’s blunder among the social media wall of shame.

All of this is to reinforce Warren Buffet’s famous saying that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” The Internet does no favors in making this especially true for social media users.

The solution

Once you know the problem, the solution is easy: don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want the entire world to see. While it may not seem likely that a disparaging remark you make to someone on a forum will come back to haunt you, it’s not worth the chance. And be persistent. Don’t forget that other people are probably saying bad things about your brand online, too.

I mention all of this because it’s not something that many folks who are new to social media realize. Gone are the days of comments to friends never having the chance of surfacing in public. Now, with the Internet, they can be tweeted, Facebooked, or even worse, Vined. Everything you post should be calculated and made clear so that it offends as few people as possible. Now more than ever it is important to think twice about what you are posting to the Internet.

I always act under the assumption that what I say online can and will probably be read by everyone, but those who are new to the scene are a little slower to make that realization.

So please: think before you Tweet. The reputation you save may be your (company’s) own.

Reprinted by permission.

Photo credit: Marketo

About the author: John Darwin

John is a recent college graduate from Creighton University. He earned his B.A. in English, specializing in British Literature, and is currently working as an editor at Social Media Contractors.

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