If you make out with your boyfriend during a Canadian hockey riot, people are going to know

It all started with the Facebook.

I used to be a very private person; I still pretend to be one, but at this point in my existence in the realm of social media, it’s pretty much a pointless exercise. Why? Because of the Facebook. And the Twitters. And threaded, “conversation”-type discussion forums. It’s so easy to put it out there, whether you’re mad, sad, tired, scared, depressed, angry, or achieving Alan Alda-in-M*A*S*H-circa-the-5th-season-or-so levels of maudlin. Of course, it’s not just me broadcasting my life on the interwebs…everyone else I know–and even people I don’t know–is just as capable of putting Amy Miller in the spotlight, even when I’d rather be hermited up on the couch with the blinds closed.

Which leads me to this:

These days, the web unmasks everyone

The collective intelligence of the Internet’s two billion users, and the digital fingerprints that so many users leave on Web sites, combine to make it more and more likely that every embarrassing video, every intimate photo, and every indelicate e-mail is attributed to its source, whether that source wants it to be or not. This intelligence makes the public sphere more public than ever before and sometimes forces personal lives into public view.

We are the FaceSpace. All your twitterings are belong to us! Or something.

Go through the rest of the Times piece…it’s good stuff. At first, I felt like the author was blowing things out of proportion, but then I started thinking about how exposed I am, personally, because of the internet. Last February, I was sitting on the DC metro somewhere between Pentagon and L’Enfant when someone I had never met approached me, introduced himself, and told me he was a big fan of my Twitter feed. Bork. I must have looked either a) terrified or b) incredulous, because said gentleman proceeded to whip out his iPhone (not a metro metaphor) and pull up my Twitter profile, as well as a friend’s profile that had tagged my handle in a few pictures. I played it cool, but on the inside, I was about two seconds away from going full-out splodey-head–had a complete stranger just recognized me on the Yellow line during rush hour? I mean, DC is incestuous, but yikes, right?

[For all the mothers and protective men out there, you can stop dialing 9-1-1: the aforementioned stranger was a perfectly safe gentleman, Hill rat, and fellow politico and social media guru. Small world!]

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it really means to have an expectation of privacy. Sure, I “make private” certain parts of my Facebook page, and have about 7 different e-mail addresses I give out, but in the era of camera phones, Twitter, YouTube, and instant communication, how much privacy can I really expect? Looking back at the article, I can see that the author is right: not only do we have the power to creep and stalk and overexpose, we are encouraged to do so. Furthermore, being “out in public” has much more serious implications today than it did even 10 years ago. Just about everyone I know has a camera phone, or a camcorder phone, or some sort of flip cam tucked away somewhere that they can use to broadcast humanity’s foibles and follies to millions of people with the click of a button.

It’s not just voyeurism–it’s instant voyeurism.

This is something I’m going to continue to look at; I think it’s important not only as a social issue, but also as a professional issue. I’d really like some feedback on this one…how do you feel about privacy nowadays? Do you feel like your expectation of privacy is diminished by your friend’s camera phone? Does the thought of Googling yourself make you nervous?

We can’t run, we can’t hide, and heaven knows we can’t ever delete anything from the internet EVER–so we might as well deal with it. Consider this an open thread for your questions on privacy law.

Originally posted on Beyond Clause 8

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