It was always amazing to Carver how trusting or naïve young people were. They didn’t believe that anybody could connect the dots. They believed they could bare their souls on the Internet, post photos and information at will, and not expect any consequences. – From the novel authored by Michael Connelly, The Scarecrow
By now, the stories are well known. A job seeker sees her hiring prospects torpedoed by an errant blog post or by embarrassing photos the prospective employer finds on Facebook or MySpace. Or anymore, there is also the risk a litigant faces when in the course of discovery, damaging information is unearthed on a blog, website or other social networking site. Such information can drastically undermine a litigant’s position with devastating effect.
There’s a tension between privacy and self-promotion. Unfortunately, that tension is too often being overlooked by users of social networking sites. The media is rife with recent reports about the phenomena called ‘sexting,’ or the transmitting of sexually explicit photos via cell phones and which too often end up as Internet photo posts.
But beyond lost job opportunities and embarrassing information, there are also the potential emotional and financial costs inherent in being on the receiving end of a lawsuit. This morning, for example, a colleague emailed me a news item about a Chicago landlord’s defamation suit against its alleged trash-talking tenant’s taunting Twitter tweets.
And not long ago, I recall reading about a defamation suit against a blogger for the critical remarks she posted on her blog about a company’s software product. Such suits, even if ultimately unavailing as was in the case of this hapless blogger, can extract a tremendous toll on a defendant.
Therefore, before taking the leap to network online, be sure to weigh your own privacy concerns, even when using seemingly innocuous marketing and business networking tools like LinkedIn. Every social network has ways to limit your web presence through public access restrictions. So, unless users plan ahead and pre-determine their own individual privacy comfort-zones, the boundaries will remain assuredly risky. Potential identify theft and privacy invasion problems will arise. And as technology accelerates, such concerns are destined to increase with whatever new “new” iteration appears in the future.
Bottom line, think twice and inform yourself. A list of suits against bloggers can be found at the Medial Law Resource Center’s blog at http://mlrcblogsuits.blogspot.com/ . Further worthwhile information on Internet privacy generally, and the safeguards to consider can also be found at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s robust website at http://www.eff.org/.