Privacy on the Net

Robin "Miss Conduct" Abrahams, a psychologist and etiquette columnist (awesome!), recently wrote about privacy on the internet. Robin emailed another writer, asking to be linked to in the writer's blog, and the writer posted the email, with the link, online. Since Robin is an excellent writer, there wasn't much to worry about. Still, a bit disconcerting.

Our dear friend, Carla, also experienced a problem with online privacy. One of Carla's (former?) friends wrote a rather nasty journal entry about Carla. Carla posted a link to the entry and said little about it. Her friend(?) (let's call her "Girl" to keep with Carla's consideration for others' privacy--ironic?), Girl, ranted on and on, saying lots of spiteful things. When she discovered Carla had linked to her entry, she left a comment whining about her lost privacy:
"I really don't appreciate you taking my PRIVATE blog and putting it on yours. I already apologized for writing that, and i (sic) really wish you hadn't intruded on my privacy and posted it."
I'm sorry, dear. This is the Internet. The Internet is an anti-privacy god. If you want your journal to be private, then buy a blank book with a lock on it!

Of course, Miss Conduct's private email is not the same as a "private" journal. I like to think of emails as letters or snippets of things you would say to someone if you were with them in person. Typically these are intended to be just-between-you-and-me sorts of communication, unless permission is given to distribute (e.g., Subject: "FW: Stupid Chain Mail"), privacy is waived implicitly (e.g., multiple recipients) or explicitly, or some other condition I can't categorize (e.g., emails received at an account for a journalist).

Kyra and I are careful about what we write here because we know that what is written here is not private and somewhat permanent (e.g., it is possible to retrieve archived or cached versions of pages that are no longer available). We also realize that we may have an audience we do not expect or necessarily desire. And of course we don't really want anything to come back to us a few days/weeks/months/years/decades and bite us in the arse. Anything could happen, even if we're careful, but that's the implicit agreement when we signed up to have an online journal.

In honor of Carla's blog: Today's entry was brought to you by the letters E and G (e.g., e.g.) and /.


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