Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cyberspace Is No Place For The Dumb Or Dumber

Guidelines For Protecting Yourself, Your Family, Your Business

By David Miranda

Someone once said "ignorance means you don't know, stupidity means you'll never know". This said, there is a great deal of ignorance and stupidity exercised by people in this digitally connected and viral world we call cyberspace.

Everything you put in an email, a text message, a user-generated video, on a social networking site, on a blog, in a podcast, in a voice mail, etc. can be distributed to anyone else, anywhere else, at any time in the future - any once it's out there, it's out there to stand on its own - unvarnished with no context. We all know this, yet it does not stop us from continuing to be ignorant, stupid - just plain dumb about what we are digitally producing and distributing.

We witness countless examples of "digital dumbness" every day. The "Academy Award of Dumb Moves" in recent memory go to the following:

  • Best Insert Of Foot in Mouth By A Presidential Hopeful - Republican President hopeful George Allen being taped making his infamous "macaca" statement at a rally forcing him out of the race.

  • Best Parent In A Supportive Role - Alec Baldwin for his voice mail rant to his teenage daughter forcing him to make public mea culpas.

  • Best Bigoted Performance By A Seinfeld Character - Michael Richards' phone camera video of his racially-epitheted incident at an LA comedy spot that resulted in him going into a self-induced exile.

  • Best Defamation By A Radio Icon - Don Imus' infamous negative descripitions of the Rutger's women's varsity team resulting in his dismissal. Update: Mr. Imus is back on the air, although much chastened and careful with his comments.

  • Best Unkept Secret Affair By A City Official - The Mayor of Detroit, who after denying any romantic relationship with a married aide (he's married to) now as to explain thousands of lurid text messages between the two now available on the Internet.
There are countless examples of these types of incidents. Smart people doing dumb things is nothing new. The difference is that in today's interconnected viral world, millions of people know about it. Cyberspace is today's Pandora's Box.

Today, we all send (and share) sensitive emails, correspondence, videos, and personal information hour by hour. In the blur of life today, we sometimes do these things without thinking or consideration of present or future consequences of this user-generated communication.

Here are some simple guidelines to protect yourself, your family, and your business in cyberspace:
  • Think before you hit the send, enter, upload, share, blog this buttons. Remember that everything you communicate - emails, voice mails, text messages, blog and social networking entries, podcasts, chat rooms, videos, etc. will and can be distributed without impunity.

  • Be careful who you cc or bcc in communications.

  • Be smart about the personal information you enter on social networking sites including MySpace, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. Your current (and future employer), colleagues, etc. can view and share this information.

  • Exercise discretion, good taste, and good manners in your digital behavior.

  • Remember that today's friends could become tomorrow's adversary.

  • Keep business, business and personal, personal. Don't intermingle the two.

  • Know what your children are doing on the internet. Give them rules.

  • It cannot get distributed in cyberspace, if you don't put it there in the first place.
Bottom Line: Once it's out there, it's out there for millions to see. There is no equivalent of an eraser or "White Out" in cyberspace.

Practice safe Internet.