A little rant about Facebook and privacy

I’ve had a handful of conversations in the past few weeks about the whole Facebook privacy kerfluffle. (A link, in case you’ve been living under a rock.)
My reaction boils down to this:
If you don’t want something to be public knowledge, don’t put it on the internet.
(ranting below the cut)

“But!” I hear you say, O hypothetical reader, “Facebook made us feel like we had control over our infomation!”
To which I say: If you don’t want something to be public knowledge, don’t put it on the internet.
Anyone who’s ever read about a vindictive ex posting naughty photos of someone, or someone who mistakenly sent email to the wrong addy, or hit “reply all” when they meant to just “reply” should know: once something is digital, it’s very, very, very easy to spread around.
If you want to write about something and can think of someone, anyone, whose reading of said something would make you mortified/outraged/endangered, don’t post it online. It’s that simple.
Journaling is really healthy and a great way to get perspective, and and and. But if you post it online, I don’t care if it’s friendslocked or posted under an alias or whatever: it only takes ONE mistake, ONE asshole you thought was your friend, and it’s out. Your anonymity is that fragile online. It really is. Don’t want someone to read your journal? Don’t put it that close to being in their hands. Posting stuff online and whining that it got out of the privacy bucket you put it in is like complaining that someone read the journal you left open on your desk in 8th grade.
People like Harriet who post about stuff that should be talked about even though it’s dangerous to them if they get their handle connected to their real selves are brave, and you know what? When her anonymity was compromised by Google Buzz, she was pissed but she dealt with it. She didn’t get all butthurt and swear off the internet. She reassessed things and kept her stuff online, where it could be found. She did a few things to make it harder to connect those dots in the future, but she didn’t take her toys and go home or pretend that making dot-connecting harder somehow made them impossible. Harriet is one of my intarwebs heroes.
There is no such thing as total internet privacy. You can make it harder for people to find you, but they can still find you if the stars align.
Sure, it’s nice to be able to talk to other people about things and get feedback. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that using a handle or setting things to “private” or whatever will actually keep them private forever and ever. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that using a pseudonym will keep people from figuring out who you are.
It always amazes me when I say stuff like this to people and they are surprised or offended.
Dude. It’s the internet. Multi-kajillion dollar corporations can’t stop people from cracking their encryption and stealing their stuff, and they have WAY more resources than you do. What makes you think nobody can crack your anonymity or privacy settings and figure out your info is yours?
If you post something on Facebook, for example, it only takes ONE incompetent engineer there to unlock it. You are counting on every person at Facebook to be competent and everyone in your Friendslist to be a good person and not breach your confidentiality. That’s a lot of people, and humans are fallible. All it takes is one. One. If you’re not willing to roll those dice, don’t pick them up.
If you don’t want something to be public knowledge, don’t put it on the internet.
It really is that simple.

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