Yesterday I received an email from GotJuice.com, an ‘online reputation management consultancy’ (Jeez, now there’s a hole in the market that was ripe for plugging). It said this:
“Facebook Users Private Messages Made Public
Facebook users report that private messages from years 2006 - 2009 are being displayed on users timelines”.
And I’m like, er…wow. Really? So all those bitchy comments you made off your public Timeline, on private message, could suddenly show up all over the shop? Oops. That could be embarrassing. Or, as GotJuice pointed out, in a more business-like manner, private details like credit card details and addresses and so on could be ‘out there.’
You’re all looking – aren’t you? I mean, right now? Checking out your FB timeline, huh? :)
Relax. I looked into it a bit more deeply and it appears the scare started on Monday after French newspapers reported private messages mysteriously popping up on timelines. But really it’s all a bit of a storm in a teacup, something about the formatting of wall posts reading like direct messages – so it’s now easier to locate previous wall-to-wall interactions.
But really, are you that surprised? Everyone (surely) knows that whatever you do online has the potential of just leaching out there, endlessly wafting around cyberspace. Even if, like me, you delete everything pretty much as you go along? Why should we be surprised that things like DMs on Twitter or private messaging on FB should be any different? The possibility that they will seep is always there. It’s probably safest if you assume that nothing is ever truly private.
But that’s awful, I can hear you say. Yes, it’s pretty crap that social media companies can’t keep your privacy assured. But then, is it really their responsibility to keep your peccadilloes, your bitchiness, out of the public domain? Your private details? Well, that’s not so great but hey, there is email or phone for that.
Sometimes it amazes me, the huge underbelly of social media. Up atop, the ocean ebbs and flows, the odd big wave but generally it just swells along. Yet underneath, ye gods, there is a whole other world seething and moiling and erupting.
I’m no angel – I’ve been swept along with it from time to time but generally, I try not to feed it though and I don’t like gossip. Unlike Adrian, who is an inveterate lover of news, the more salacious the better, I simply glaze over when I hear about who did what or who said what. That’s other people’s business – unless it directly affects me, of course. And even then, half the time, it’s still not my business.
Social media is a great networking tool; it’s huge fun; keeps you in touch with friends and family and can certainly help drive business too. There’s a lot I don’t like about it – like the way it gathers information about you (hence my probably futile deleting) and also the way it does seem to foster a culture of gossip and snide bitching. Not to mention the sheer timesuckery of it. But hey, it’s all in the nature of the beast.
Anyhow. Most of us online are old enough and ugly enough to know what’s what. But, on the very unlikely off-chance that anyone young and naïve is reading this (hey, Christian – that would be you!) I asked GotJuice what we should learn? And their chap Mark Hall said: "Individuals need to think twice before sending any messages, posting status updates, sending a tweet or writing on forums or blogs, as on the web private information is not so private, and it just may come back and haunt you one day.
"Every time you update your Facebook status, upload a photo or send a tweet the information becomes public information. Even if you delete the photo or remove the tweet, it’s more than likely that a problem won’t go away, a friend could of retweeted the information, a photo could have been copied onto another site or a multitude of other things may happen. The end result is the same, things tend to stick around for a long time in cyber space.
"Your online actions could be used against you in later life, such as university admissions, recruitment managers, even potential dates. They will be able to view this information and form an opinion of you without having met you or having any further knowledge."
All I can say is, thank feck I’m unemployable.