Privacy on the Web

11/03/2013 //

If you’re one of the people who post those screeds on Facebook DEMANDING I change my privacy settings to THIS and THAT because you don’t want your dinner photos seen by others, please unfriend me now and get it over with. Just make sure you send me your email address so I can get in touch with you later, because I still want to be your friend. Yes, really. It’s just that I just can’t be bothered updating the damn settings every single time Facebook decides it’s time for a mix-up.

Before you call me an asshole: I don’t mean to be make light of your very real worries about strangers impinging on the privacy of your kids, but if you do worry, the simple truth is you shouldn’t be posting this stuff in the first place! The Internet isn’t the unknown frontier any longer; we know how it works, we know the sort of people who lurk there, and we know the protection of your private life is a total clusterfuck – often by accident and just as often by design, because most services are run by people who rely on selling you out to get paid.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, especially on the Internet. Even Mark Zuckerberg’s sister got fucked over by Facebook’s arcane and capricious privacy settings, and had a public tantrum over it. (Though ultimately knowing which side her bread was buttered on, she lectured the offending user in “net etiquette” instead of blaming the culprit, Facebook itself.)

Honestly, the Internet, as a whole, isn’t the sort of place you’d want to leave your kids. Facebook and its ilk get hacked quite publicly on a regular basis – often enough that even the most traditional news outlets report on it (Usually! With! Added! Sensationalism!). Some hackers do it for the lulz, others for gain. The intrusions we hear about are the ones so big that they simply can’t be ignored, but I can’t be the only one to assume there are scores of attacks we never hear about at all. Statistically, some of them have to be successful in gaining access.

Hackers aside: sometimes you just plain forget to log out and boom! – your account is stolen. Happens all the time. And let’s go even further: a lot of people with an Internet connection out there still haven’t quite figured out email yet, and trust me, they’re on Facebook too. In short: ignoramuses, parasites and troublemakers – do you really feel safe sharing the minutia of your daily life with this confederacy of dunces?

Ultimately, what gets uploaded to the web stays on the web, whether you like it or not. Scrape down your profiles, and close all your social media accounts, but if you uploaded it, you have no guarantee there won’t still be a copy cached on some forgotten server out there. You can try bending the Internet to your will – I’ll applaud your efforts – but at the end of the day, the onus on keeping your family safe online is on you, not me.

Update: Boy, was I right.