Posted May 14, 2010 9:40 am by with 10 comments

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Anything, absolutely anything, you publish to a private social network can leak out to the public.

Most of the time, that insult about your boss, or that confession that you’re playing hooky on a Friday, remains private until one of your friends decides to repost it publicly.

Other times, people just assume that only their friends will ever see such confessions. Well, if that sounds like you, here’s your wake-up call.

What you see above is a simple search engine thrown together by two guys to demonstrate just how public your Facebook status updates are. Fortunately, the examples listed at the top of the search page are somewhat benign. But, you can see how easy it would be for your boss to see if you’re sharing company secrets. Your spouse to see that you’re cheating on them. Your…[fill in the blank].

Most online reputation management issues are self-inflicted. Before you hit that “publish” button, think about whether you’d be upset if what you’re about to say ever made it in front of your spouse/parents/kids/boss/pastor.

  • Mifflin

    As my Mom used to tell us, “Would you do it if your Mother, your Father, and your Sunday School teacher were watching?” I think that kept us out of a bit of trouble then, and your article is a good reminder for on-line behavior!

    As adults, adding spouse, kids and boss is a great addition to that audience!

  • The Internet has just taken David Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks bit and ratcheted it up by about a billion times.

    Funny thing is I CAN believe just how clueless people are when it comes to their exposure on the Internet. Heck, how many people use sunscreen regularly despite the known threat of that kind of exposure.

    Human beings have very little ability to see the correlation between current actions and future implications. We live in such an “in the moment” world that we’ve forgotten that each moment has the potential be recorded thus making it perpetual.

    Big words that boil down to: don’t be a dumb ass online.
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Business Blogging to Support Sales Efforts =-.

  • Dean

    @Andy –

    I’d love to see you do a post looking 5 years down the road and how you think this enormous database of personal info will be used and how we might look back and wish we hadn’t been so ‘radically transparent’. I think the Facebook privacy issue saga is illuminating just how much our sharing could come back to bite us (or serve us)

    • It will likely go like this:

      Next 2-5 years, we all freak out about the data that we’ve placed online. We’ll have regrets and wish we could take back a lot of stuff we posted or others posted about us.

      Next 5-10 years, we’ve become used to this info being on the web. The generation that freaked out over this stuff is now in management and can empathize for those that make the same mistakes. We’ll start overlooking minor indiscretions and instead only focus on the big mistakes: crimes, corporate scandals, SEC violations, etc.

      But, if I could truly predict the future, well I’d be a rich man. 😉

  • I think a big reason people have not been aware of this growing problem is they haven’t been affected by it directly. It seems like people today have to go through something dramatic just to realize whats going on. I mean look at 9/11, before that happened we never had good airport security and no one really had a sense of patriotism. I know it’s a extreme example but it’s true. It would be until someone gets called out by a boss or their identity stolen that they will realize the true potential of being to open online. Your absolutely right Andy, no matter how private your network is, things leak out.

    • You are right Ralph. As more of us become affected by this, we’ll collectively become smarter about it. For example, we’re accustomed to not sharing our telephone, SSN or credit card numbers online–although there are still those that do, and probably shouldn’t go near a computer in the first place. 😉

  • Facebook is not generally known for producing great thinkers. I mean, Farmville … really?

    Maybe I am just cynical, but sometimes I think intelligence is slipping away.
    .-= Mark Aaron Murnahan´s last blog ..7 SEO Guarantees: Yes, Guaranteed SEO Can Be Legitimate! =-.

  • Allan

    Great post – I found this FB status through the search engine: ___ ____ had a couple sex on the beaches for lunch…. work is gonna be very interesting for the rest of the day!!!!!!!

  • Thats a bold opening statement. There is no privacy anymore, those extracts prove it