Any online projection of your meatspace avatar should have no private details. For all online material traceable to you in real life, you must expect it to represent you to people that you haven’t met in real life (note: not the Pirate Bay’s definition of real life). Ignore the illusion of Facebook privacy settings: anything on there should be something you are okay with anyone seeing. Any non-encrypted email you send out you stand behind, legally and socially (unless you’re Eric Schmidt). A click, a screenshot, or more realistically an automated tracker has already saved it for all time. Get used to it.
It starts with a simple question: when is privacy important? Privacy is valuable if you don’t want other people knowing things about you. All digital material is easily distributed. Anything put online, therefore, should pass a simple test: is it okay if everyone in the world has seen it?
Frankly, most things we do are so mundane and outrageously uninteresting to others that you don’t care if other people know. But keep the sex, illegal acts, and medical history off your Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and whatever else you have registered to your true moniker. Practice self-censorship, but also be proud of every word you tap out in your boring little status updates.
I’m willing to put my privacy where my big mouth is. I don’t have a Twitter or Myspace. But I’ll upload my entire Facebook for anyone to download. Disclaimer: I deleted my Facebook messages. Other people that send me messages imagine that Facebook messages are private, and therefore I won’t force them to stand by their secret words.
We will one day live in a world that doesn’t find scandals in every teenage indiscretion, sext, or hit off a bong. Until that day comes, societal standards for “appropriate behavior” must be gradually eroded one sex tape at a time. Kim Kardashian did her part. Why aren’t you?