Monday, May 10, 2010

Facebook and the Illusion of Privacy

For whatever reason, everybody is talking about what a mean privacy violator Facebook is... making much of your personal information available to others unless you jump through 20 different flaming hoops to stop them. What they're doing seem's fairly shady... and I personally find Facebook completely irritating; wishing I had never succumbed and joined it... but I'd say the real mistake being made here is thinking you can post anything on the internet and have it be "private" in an real sense of the word.

I post this blog under my own name, as opposed to a pseudonym, because it reminds me that there is nothing I should be posting online that I'd be embarrassed to have traced back to me professionally or socially. Of course, I'm also not a lawyer, a banker, or in a job where my... say... political views are relevant... and while a prospective employer might find my Obama fanboism a turn off, and not hire me because of it, I'd just as soon not work for someone who even considered political affiliation when making hiring decisions (liberal or conservative). Hell, they might find the fact that I like taking pictures of food kind of weird and creepy... if so, c'est la vie. I suppose this might put me at a competitive disadvantage against someone with similar skills but no "paper trail" (à la Elena Kagan), but it's not something I lose sleep over, since I've already made the conscious effort to merge my offline and online personas. If somebody doesn't like me from what I post here, I have little reason to suspect they'd take a shining to me in in person.

Maybe you disagree, and you'd really rather be a blank slate when meeting somebody... making a decision about whether to work somewhere only after they offer you the job... fair enough. But realize that doesn't mean finding a more private Facebook substitute to express your political views or post your drunken photos... it means not putting those things online at all.

photo by Flickr user Alan Cleaver used under a Creative Commons license