Privacy is Dead, Reputation is Alive

by Marianne Richmond on March 28, 2010

Michael Arrington wrote a post today with the title Reputation is Dead: It’s Time to Overlook Our Indiscretions which makes the point that on the internet today, unlike in 1993 everyone does know that you are a dog.  Even though you have carefully chosen your Facebook profile photo, there are  all of those less discreet college photos that you thought were private in dozens of other people’s photo albums all over Facebook that will be shared into perpetuity. He says that in a world where everything is public we will become more forgiving of each other….don’t worry about that photo, the HR person has a worse one. It will be hard to single out one college kid or one employee for what they said on Twitter when everyone is indiscriminately chirping away.

His premise is that controlling one’s online reputation is becoming exceedingly more difficult as” the spread of quick fire opinions is now moving at the speed of light and forever findable on the Internet” and that current legal remedies such as slander, libel, defamation will be as ineffective on the web as copyright laws and music piracy. So, I don’t really disagree with his assessment of things….that online, everyone’s life (and business)  is an open book subject to unsolicited even anonymous review and that since we are all in the same boat we will be less likely to push each other overboard for being human.

However, I don’t think it is reputation that is dead. On the contrary I think reputation is even more alive. It is privacy that is dying and that makes our reputation even more valuable. Recognizing that privacy is dead and that managing your reputation or the reputation of your business is going to become exponentially more challenging as the web continues to expand in terms of users (your great Aunt Martha is now your Facebook friend and follows you on Twitter…there goes the inheritance)  as well as in the applications that we ourselves use to share our every waking moment and location.

Arrington asks “So What Happens Next?” and answers that we need to adjust and become less judgmental about “indiscretions.”  True. But we also need to manage the aspects of our online reputation and identity that we can control….in other words understand the difference between “your” Facebook url (it’s not really yours) and “your” content on Facebook versus your domain name that you own and the content on your own site.  (See Markshall Kirkpatrick’s post).

Also, be circumspect about the personal information that you yourself put into the vast open web and importantly that the content that you create reflects the reputation that you want to have. Create your own online identity….having your own content will make it more difficult for that anonymous “wingnut” to be credible.  Privacy is dead…long live your reputation.

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