The Consequence of Sharing


As the Internet evolves and privacy law evolves accordingly, we find ourselves at a crossroads of sharing, transparency, and ultimately privacy.  Even within my immediate family, I have philosophically different thoughts on what is and is not appropriate to post.  There are some uncompromising consequences with too much sharing and since we’re coming off of the holiday season where billions of photos and videos were taken, I thought a brief examination was worthwhile.

At first glance, it seems pretty obvious and harmless to post photos on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram showing off our precious moments, our children, and sharing those images with friends.   Before you post, you should realize the unintended consequences and consider taking some steps to protect your self, or your future self.

100% Transparency?

There’s so much value in truth and transparency, but are there limits and negative consequences with too much sharing?

Do you remember Wikileaks?  Direct from the wikileaks Web site:

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box).

The idea here is simple that there are NO SECRETS.  When you apply this simple concept of “extreme transparency” to a government body, you can begin to see the potential problems.  Does the populous really need to know each and every classified correspondence?  Are there negative, dare I say, or drastic consequences to this type of transparency?  It’s a philosophical question as there is also so much importance in the media’s right to information.  Imagine for a moment what the populous could do with “part” of a classified piece of data.  Consider if everyone had access to the video transcript of the CIA debriefing of a known terrorist.  Do we want this on the Internet?

Before we dive into a serious discussion on how government’s should run and the exclusive privileged information certain leaders have access to, let’s apply the concept of transparency and over-sharing to every day lives.

Posting Photos of the Innocent – Waiving your legal rights – and those of your children.

Tis’ the season of gatherings and with that comes lots and lots of photos.  Nothing new here, but now that we have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the ability to instantly broadcast the moments is available perpetually.  But just because you can share, should you?  Hold that thought for a second.

What about your child, sleeping angelically and innocently, suddenly available for your 1000+ friends to see and “like”.  Did they authorize your posting of their slumber in the arms of Morpheus?  Nope.  What do you suppose happens to everything you post?  How do you think “Terms and Conditions” actually work.  Depending on what platform you’re talking about, there are specific conditions of use.  In some cases, when you post a photo, you are actually extending a use license to that technology platform provider.  In other cases, you are granting exclusive license.  So what does this mean?  Imagine if your son or daughter later becomes an actor, a politician, or even just a community leader and someone wants to write a feature on them.  What if the reporter could actually display a photo you once posted on Facebook in their article without permission and without recourse from your son/daughter.  So, be careful what you post as you are allowing the world to re-post and re-use, in some cases without limitation.  Wouldn’t it be crazy if your own child did not have the rights to their own photos given your actions?  Think this is crazy or impossible, think again.  Legislation on privacy and Internet license rights are way behind and the advantage remains with the Internet content providers who are protected 100% by section 230 of the Digital Communications Act.

Virtual Stalkers – friends that are actually robots and in some cases, criminals.

Facebook and other social media platforms offer “block” and “limit” technology that in theory protect you from anyone who is bothering your or you simply wish to avoid.  Have you studied your friend list lately?  Data shows that approximately 3% of your ‘friends’ are actually robots that are mining your data.  What does that mean.  Simply put, each and everything you post is being recorded by a third party into a database.  What you like, how many kids you have, where you dine, how you live is all being recorded in excruciating detail.  Some of the companies behind these robots are selling this data to marketing firms to target you for products or services.  Other companies are actually identity theft professionals looking for that instance when they can figure out enough about you to simply impersonate you and take possession of your assets.  Once again, if you think this is unlikely, think again.  It happens every day to people just like you.  If you think you’re careful about who you add as friends – know that their recklessness with their accounts will directly affect access to your data.  The takeaway here is that if you post something on-line, you should assume that everyone can see it.  Does this suddenly compel you to be more judicious about what you post?

What can I do?

The obvious answer is to post less and much more selectively.  There are dozens of private networks popping up that completely protect the rights of the person posting.  Of course, there’s a good chances your hundreds of friends won’t be on those networks.  If you can’t help it and need to share every moment, I would post there first and then LINK to that within the more popular networks.   One simple solution is to first post on your own private WordPress blog: www.wordpress.com  and then link from there to your favorite social media location.  Posting elsewhere first automatically protects your license.

However, I think the correct long term answer involves a more philosophical analysis.  Why be so public?  Is it really that important to your personal well being that everyone is aware that you’re having a good time or that your children are sleeping soundly?   Who are you really trying to impress?  Most likely you gain some personal delight in sharing these images and posts and broadcasting your own personal reality show to those that will listen.  However, there are negative consequences with too much sharing.  I personally believe in the near future that the most valuable commodity will actually be privacy and how confidential/private one can live their life. Until this becomes the new norm, the new accepted consciousness, take care to protect what you post.



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