Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Private is Public

When I get an email about a job, I do a few searches about the sender and the company, spending no more than 10 minutes just to get a bit of a context. This week I have seen a baby home movie and read a dad's obituary from two days earlier.  There is a lot of personal information on the internet! I'm sure this is the first you are hearing about this.

When most people talk about online privacy, it ranges from concern about strangers being able to watch your virtual movements to the more specific. A few examples? Wanting searches about health conditions and... um... personal interests to remain private. But what I upload about myself to the public domain-- this blog, for example-- is a personal decision with personal consequences. Just for the record, that is not my family to the left.

When I search my own name, my LinkedIn profile comes up close to the top. You can learn where I went to college and the names of some family members. You can see a few pieces of art I've made. My Facebook profile is restricted to friends. If you dig a bit deeper, there are some slightly more personal items but thankfully that picture of me hiking through Utah as a high school sophomore is no longer up.  I don't think anyone accessing my online persona would feel like they walked in on me in the locker room.

What do I do with the information that someone emailed me two days after his father passed away? When I read that article, I had two thoughts simultaneously: I have invaded this man's privacy and why is he working. Watching a 2 minute home movie of another stranger's children was a much more positive experience (so cute) but it felt uncomfortable because I certainly was not the intended audience.

At the same time, these 10 minute searches can reveal extremely useful information so I am glad that I take the time to do them. Being more savvy about what is up in the cloud for all to see is up to the individual. Some might say that I shouldn't be doing these searches if I know the outcome could potentially put me in an awkward position.

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