Friday, March 20, 2009

Body-building cop's day in court turns ugly


Be careful how you set your mood on MySpace, your status on Facebook and never post dumb comments on video sites because it all can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Most of the article is made up of the fairly standard warnings not to incriminate yourself on networking sites, and noting that anything you post to the web will propagate pretty much forever. Hot news if this was 2006.

The really interesting part comes on the second page:

Nick Abrahams, a partner at the Sydney office of law firm Deacons who specialises in technology and media law, said the case reminded him about a famous New Yorker magazine cartoon which shows a dog at a computer accompanied by the words "on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog".

"... this anonymity just doesn't apply anymore. Everyone is accountable for their actions online now," he said. "The internet has come of age and the anonymity has gone."

Note that last bit.

The cartoon and its equally famous quote date from July 5, 1993, when the most sensational part of the nascent Internet was its ability to hide behind screen names. At worst, you can create a wholly alternate identity for malicious purposes, at best you simply tailor your online presence to showcase only your positive attributes. (On sites like Facebook, every bit of personal information has been put there voluntarily and is usually chosen with the intent to make the user "look good" or at least neutrally inoffensive.)

But even in the last few years there has been a speedy convergence of "the Internet" and "the real world" (particularly in today's children and teenagers who have grown up with the web and therefore don't distinguish the two as completely separate realms--more on this in a future post).

This is a result of media like Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, YouTube, email, and personal websites becoming increasingly linked, and indeed as Abrahams said, the comfortable anonymity of yesteryear has crumbled away with this increased connectivity.

It's always been the case that anything you post online can be traced back to you, but these days it's easier than ever--and to a large degree people have done it willingly. Increased transparency isn't necessarily bad, but as Mr. Ettienne found out, it certainly has its downsides.

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