I admit it, I'm on Twitter. I have been for a little over a year. I have a fairly low opinion of it in general, but I am still on it and make random comments to people from time to time.
Earlier today, one of the people I follow tweeted that his young (under 5, I believe) daughter had just done something stupid. Nothing illegal or immoral, just the sort of embarrassing and sometimes destructive stupidity that young children tend to get into. And he then tweeted it.
Which means that his under age daughter's actions are now part of the permanent archive of the US government.
Think about that for a moment. Think of the implications of that. Every tweet, ever, will now be archived, permanently, by the US Library of Congress. Trivial, casual pseudo-conversation about someone's cat's hairball is now a part of the official public record on the same level as an issue of the New York Times. It is therefore available, permanently, to anyone. (Well, at least to US citizen who know what forms to fill out, but that will likely change.)
If the idea of everything you say being out in public didn't scare you before, does it now? Think, really think, about the implication of that person's daughter's childhood foolery now being part of a permanent government record.
Now consider that you didn't consent to the government having that archive; you consented to a private corporation (Twitter) having it, and they turned it over. You already consented to everthing you say being available to all 6 billion people in the world.
Think, how much of what you say do you really want available to over 6 billion people? How much of what you think is "private" really is? It isn't. Does checking a "private" checkbox actually make it private? Not in any meaning the word had until 5 years ago. Not one bit is one bit private.
I'm sure some will call Big Brother here, about how the US government is spying on people (retroactively?). That's not the main issue, however. Do recall that there are more people on Facebook than there are people in the USA, and Facebook is a private corporation with a long track record of tracking every single click a user makes, every word he writes, every friend he has, and selling that data to other private corporations. It's not a government vs. non-government question. It's a fact of the modern Internet that such information exists, and will be, has already been exploited, and in ways you don't want.
Have you thought about that? How many people have? Have you really sat down to consider how much of your personal life you're giving away to the world at large?
Have you ever thought about how much of someone else's personal life you're giving away to the world at large... without their permission?
The activities of a 5 year old little girl in her own home are now a matter of public record. Did she consent to that? Does she even comprehend the question? Does her father?
By the time she's old enough to comprehend the way in which her privacy was just violated... will she even care? Will the concept even still exist?
How many people even stop to think about the implications of talking about their sex life on Facebook, Live Journal, "private" tweets (not any more they're not), and the like? We've all heard the stories of people turned down for jobs because their Facebook page contains pictures of them drinking or doing drugs in college, but who actually thinks about what that means? Who stops to think that everything you say, everything you do, everything your friends say about you, can and will be used against you?
That's without even getting into the "obvious" issues like the legal system being decades behind the curve.
We are decades behind the curve.
As web developers, we are speeding this transition. We build the tools that build this new world.
The world has changed, and it is not changing back. Have you really thought about what that means?
How many people's privacy did you violate today without thinking about it?
Have you thought about what "private life" means now? In 5 years, most people won't understand the concept.
If you aren't absolutely terrified by these issues, you haven't thought them through yet.
PS: If you have pictures of me on Facebook, please remove them immediately. If you have videos of me on Facebook, please remove them immediately. If you have mention of me on Facebook, please remove them immediately. It's the least "safe" social network out there. I want no part of it. Please do not violate my privacy by posting anything of me on Facebook.
Update: The New York Times has an excellent piece on just how hard it is to tell Facebook to not treat all of your information as public. It takes hundreds of clicks.