Michelle Sullivan Communications

Tiger bite : online privacy and the case of Marc L***

I’m sharing the content of an email I’ve forwarded to a client, with whom I’ve spoken about social media on several occasions. On one such occasion, the concerned father came to the surface, as he spoke about photos a family member had published on Facebook. Our conversation revolved around the Internet, privacy issues and new realities faced by the generation known as digital natives.

Hello L***

You may remember the conversation we had about your daughter, Facebook and privacy issues. If her French reading comprehension is good, you may want to have her check out the following blog post:

http://felixggenest.blogspot.com/2009/01/portrait-google-le-tigre-ne-connait-pas.html

which references the following article:

http://www.le-tigre.net/Marc-L.html

She can read the article first for better impact, then followup with the blog post for a bit more context.

Basically, this French publication chose someone completely randomly, then started to follow his Google trace. They created a portrait of him based on information he’d published himself in online communities like Facebook and Flickr.

The online article has been modified, encoding some of the more personal information. The original print version went out with everything laid out on the line: his name, the company he works for etc.

Particularly interesting is the inclusion, in the blog post I reference, of a letter written by the subject of the ‘study’. It shows his reaction. It shows how disconcerting he found it to be shown an article with his private life laid out for all to see and mentions that he’s been getting anonymous calls from someone trying to get access to his mailbox security code etc.

While I’m the first to warn against sensationalist media that tries to paint a portrait of the Internet as a « dangerous » place, this does serve as a good reminder of the context in which we agree to evolve when we go online. This article does a compelling job of driving the point home.

As you said during our conversation, the traces left by your children now could (potentially) be referenced by their employers (or enemies, or future fathers-in-law) down the line.

And even if we’ve gotten to the point where Obama can admit to having done cocaine and still be elected President, anyone interested in political office would do particularly well to take all of this into consideration.

Hope this doesn’t give you too many nightmares.