Three People Can Keep A Secret If Two Of Them Are Dead

This adage is as true today as it was in Benjamin Franklin’s time and it is equally true for electronic and nonelectronic communication.  There is no way to make people (or companies) respect privacy.  People love to repost, retweet, share, and tag. Privacy policies on websites are constantly changing. Data that has been deleted may be recovered by someone with the appropriate technical skills. From a legal standpoint, data held by others can be subpoenaed. Security breaches (such as those in the reported in the news) could compromise your private data.

Information on the Internet is easily duplicated by users and automatically duplicated for archiving. Once it is distributed across multiple locations, it’s unlikely it will ever be completely deleted. Websites are crawled, analyzed, and cached by search engines and are made available in online repositories (such as the Internet Archive) as well as being saved in offline storage. It is common practice to automatically backup email, mailing lists, news repositories, and other server content.  Even with tremendous resources, it is impossible to trace all of the digital and physical copies of a piece of information to guarantee absolute deletion .Moreover, even if the original data were somehow totally deleted, information derived from it through data mining and inference techniques could still persist.

This week, I will leave you with these thoughts from . They apply to all interpersonal communication.

“Finally, anything shared over the network is subject to misinterpretation. Clear communication is never guaranteed in any venue, and the chances of someone misinterpreting your meaning — or of you misinterpreting theirs — are increased in online communications. Messages do not have as rich a context, and are missing some of the cues we usually use to convey our communicative intent. The probability that you will be understood also depends on whether your target audience is coming from a similar background and viewpoint, and therefore whether they have a good notion of what you’re likely to be trying to get across — but even then, your assumptions about their point of view may not always be correct. Furthermore, what you post online may be seen by people who aren’t your target audience, if you either didn’t know or didn’t think about who else would have access to the content. This larger audience may not have the same context and viewpoint as your original target audience, so may interpret what you say according to their own expectations and may judge it by different standards.”


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