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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Publicity and privacy: Be careful

Images captured by the Google Street View camera have caught people in embarrassing or compromising situations. See this posting on the site.

I'm having some trouble writing this posting. In the original version, the text, naming names, reads like a tale of woe about how to get into real construction marketing publicity trouble on the Internet by carelessly expressing yourself, or simply allowing your actions to be exposed through the intense power and scrutiny of online resources.

The less-than-positive stories are real, and I've participated in a few of them in the past few years, digging out public-record information and discovering things that some people would rather not seen publicized.

They are powerful examples of how seemingly inadvertent actions can have unintended consequences. You simply cannot compartmentalize your life these days. If you engage in public or semi-public activities (for example, by sending an email to a few friends, or allowing a compromising image to be taken of you in public place), you may soon find your are on hundreds, thousands, or more computer screens, blogs, and websites.

In the original version of this posting, I poured oil onto water by citing some specific examples, naming names and hyperlinking the text to the relevant source information.

Then I hesitated.

Is the purpose of this blog to dig up mud or to show readers how to market effectively? However, what happens if you create your own problems through careless ignorance of this rule? Whatever you do in public these days can be recorded and redistributed widely outside your control and distributed to millions.

Use common sense. I'm not advocating paranoia, but when you send emails, or post pictures on social networking sites, or demonstrate anything in public you might want to keep private, remember that Big Brother indeed is watching.

Conversely, if you have a good, humorous or positive story to share, don't be afraid to communicate through unconventional methods. Maybe you can track where the Google camera is and set up an 'accidental' shot that will be seen around the world (The Google van is in Ottawa now.)

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