IF YOU PUT SOMETHING in front of a tabloid journalist, you run the risk of that information being taken out of context and repurposed for the sake of attracting a tabloid readership. If you put something onto the internet that's discoverable, you risk it being mashed up and reused under another's byline. You relinquish your expectation of privacy once a tabloid journalist starts digging around. This is not the way the world is supposed to work but it's the way things unfold at least once a month among the 2200 people I follow via Google Reader. In the case of Melanie Schregardus, her conversational blog became part of a full-page story in the Irish Mail on Sunday. By all accounts, Melanie was quoted without verification. The full-page colour coverage could damage Melanie's job prospects because her photo accompanied the article (also used without permission) and the normal assumption is that she had approved its use, along with the direct and indirect comments attributed to her in the article.
"To read a newspaper is to refrain from reading something worthwhile." - Aleister Crowley
WHILE LISTENING TO emails sent by Media Writing students to my (private Nokia E90) email address, I endured a mind-numbing six-page metadata version of a Press Release. Normally, my email lands on my Nokia E90 and it's ready to read itself to me. One piece of mail today arrived with a large grouping of tags ahead of the body of the message. The tags were placed inside the email because the body of the mail was pasted in from a Microsoft Word document, thereby converting the email into rich text format. A lot of people do this but they might not know about the special treatment given to the e-mail.
ONLINE PRIVACY and the protection of personal data has been a big issue for Digital Rights Ireland but it's often difficult to get anyone interested in these things unless they become mainstream. Google has put a spotlight on both issues by the way the search giant seems to relegate privacy to the corporate imperative of gathering as much shareable and searchable content as possible. I started sharing items through Google Reader last week because I wanted to compare that method of knowledge networking to links shared through del.icio.us and something unexpected happened. Anyone who I had ever contacted through Google Talk got adivsed about my shared items. This could create problems if you were annotating sensitive items as "shared" for a close-knit network.
FOR SEVERAL WEEKS, I have watched people browsing my web site after originating deep inside their own web history. I can see this happening because their referrer strings say they started at places like http://www.google.com/history/lookup?month=12&day=11&yr=2007. So I've started using the same referrer strings to see what Google knows about my web history. I discovered I am not as private a browser as I thought because one's Web History looks different from machine to machine. If you want to see what your history looks like, you should try the Web History Help page.
MAXIM KELLY points to a "totally unacceptable" practise of Sky Ireland. Sky sent a letter entitled "Notices of changes of how we use your information" in a company magazine sent to Sky customers last week. As Maxim Kelly explains, the letter states that by continuing as a Sky customer, account holders have agreed that their information would be "shared with other companies outside the group, including for sales, marketing and other market research purposes by such companies," unless they contact the company to be excluded from such lists. This automagic opt-in practise violates Irish data protection law.
Maxim Kelly -- "Sky customer letter unacceptable says data protection commissioner" in Sunday Tribune, 2 December 2007.
EVERY FOUR MONTHS, we have the attention of a captive audience of 40 teens, like those at left, who immerse in new media for six hours a day. They are minnows in an online ecosystem, swimming in waters very unfamiliar to their school teachers. When these college-oriented students land on our doorsteps, we share personal stories about the need to be careful online. At a short event a few weeks ago, some of the 15-yr-old students shared tidbits of their experience with Facebook and Bebo. It seemed like a cool thing for several girls to notch up more friends as possible, as though they were in a competition. So they accepted hundreds of people as their online friends--people they do not know. "Would any of these people be your mates?" "No way." In several cases, they input their mobile phone numbers online. Hundreds of other people could see those numbers. These numbers are merely data points in the Facebook matrix. You can guess what happened next--the phones started ringing.
KEN MACDONALD, the Irish estate agent credited for the firing of the Sunday Tribune's business editor, has ensured a front page position in terms of staking out his claim to privacy by successfully pressurising a national Irish paper to fire its business editor on a story about MacDonald's failure to sell his own home in a timely manner. MacDonald won the first round in terminating the job of a business editor. He may not be as successful in the rounds that follow the back story in this regard. The back story is worth a deeper look, something that one might expect a British or American title to probe. It's a story that should question the power of Irish property developers in matters of national, editorial and government finance policy. It's one I have tried to raise with a regional editor who told me, "Now we couldn't run that story. You know it would be libelous." Which is exactly the kind of punching bag that an Irish editor or a Irish blogger can face--you have to put up with the threat of libel in Ireland by simply mentioning a person in the context of something that person does not like. Moreover, if the aggrieved can demonstrate hurt, upset or trauma felt by a spouse, sibling, son, daughter or family pet, the court will help assess the damages. So imagine the distress felt by the Ken MacDonald and family when this piece appears on the front page of the Sunday Time in Ireland today.
ALTHOUGH I RARELY respond to invitations to join widget-based communities that revolve around objects instead of people, I started an account on Shelfari because it relates to a social networking experiment and then violated a second operating principle by failing to scroll down on an "invite friends" screen before hitting the "send" button. It turns out that the Shelfari invitation system is spring-loaded to automatically send invitations to people located in your address book if you permit Shelfari to access your Yahoo!, MSN, or Google Mail accounts. So you might guess what happened next. Shelfari started sending invitations to many people who are stored inside of my Yahoo! address book. These are legacy addresses, some gathered from the early 90s. One hour after I pressed the button, Shelfari invited two dead people, one prisoner (he should probably read books but his warden is reading his mail), the CNN news desk, four European editors--and potentially a boatload of others who I hope I never meet. Their names are in my address book since my Yahoo! account is an amalgamation of a filofax, ACT! database, Notes record set, Exchange mail records, as well as contact data shoveled into Yahoo from a minimum of 20 different phones I have used, owned, borrowed or tested. I would never send a bulk mail from my Yahoo! account. I would have never had a bulk mail sent under my signature so this embarrassment means I have loads of work ahead as I may have to go around and apologise to hundreds of people. I hope that is not the case.
IN HIS REPORT for the Sunday Times Magazine, John Arlidge advises readers to precede with caution before embracing an all-encompassing Google-aware lifestyle. Google offers plenty of free things that encourage many of my colleagues to connect their work lives--and personal affairs as well--to the search tools used by Google to make life simpler. But are your secrets safe with Google? Maybe not.
FOR THE FIRST TIME in my teaching career, all my incoming third level
college students use the same method to find information. They google
for what they need. This little piece of anecdotal evidence sums up
Google today: it not only dominates the internet, it guides people
everywhere. As a verb, it has become more ubiquitous than a dictionary
in the family home. This omnipresent power brings to light a compelling
requirement--I believe college educators should teach students the
double-edged sword Google has become. You can peer down from the
heavens through Google's satellite imagery. You can type in my nine
digit zip code from the States and find the nearest pizza delivery
services, escort agencies and then use a local service to get a
street-level view of some of the premises. While I find these
capabilities very useful, the easy findability available through Google
evokes ambivalent feelings.