There was a minor kerfluffle with an organization with which I’m associated; a blog stalker noticed that a post I wrote quoted somebody from the organization by name (accurately, and within context, btw) and took exception.
Like the swimmer who admires the beauty in the whites of a sharks’ teeth before realizing they are about to be eaten, there are far bigger issues for anyone to worry about than someone quoting somebody else accurately on a blog.
Privacy, as we’ve known it, is gone. Gone at work, and it’s gone in your personal life.
The genie has been out of the bottle for 5+ years, and there is little suggest anyone has the ability to entice it back in, and seal it back up.
Here’s the other shoe to drop. It’s not the accurate, in-context quote on a professional blog to worry about. It’s the audio tape or video showing behaviors that you’d prefer to never be heard or seen that is sprung via Twitter and YouTube to tens of thousands of people that should concern you.
Technology has once again gotten ahead of explicit norms and most laws. Fed by YouTube, simple blogging sites like Tumblr or Posterous, and social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+, everyone is a potential journalist, publisher and news distributor all wrapped in one. The town gossip has been replaced by viral media.
While the social sites make it easy, the hardware technology makes it simple. Pure Digital’s Flip camera was a trendsetter as a non-intrusive recording tool (small, easy to use, great sound and audio, easy to upload to the Web), and as noted almost 3 years ago (The Pure Digital Manifesto: WAIT! Have You Seen THIS on Video?), most anything you say or do may be recorded, uploaded, and broadcast to tens of thousands before you can say “invasion of privacy.”
Smartphones today like the iPhone make record and upload an instantaneous process; see it, record it, share it.
There are state-by-state laws regarding recording telephone conversation; there is a veritable mixed bag of regulations regarding video or sound recordings of public figures that generally revolve around the reasonable expectation of privacy.
As any number of political figures (politicians, CEOs, teachers union presidents, etc.) can attest, if you’re in public you’re likely to get video or audio recorded. Alex Baldwin’s recent removal (talking about kerfluffles) from an American Airlines flight was videotaped with another passenger’s smartphone; the combination of the video tape, his Twitter responses, and American Airlines Web-posted response was a snapshot of the very social way media is now broadcast and consumed.
Barry Salzberg, the CEO for Deloitte & Touche USA, notes in Trusting a CEO in the Twitter Age,
“The days are long gone when organizations could control the message internally or build a wall between themselves and the outside world. Today what’s inside is soon outside, posted on blogs and message boards—or simply Twittered during meetings. Messages get distorted: Rumors take on the status of truth and digital hearsay is quickly seen as fact. Never is the truth more at risk than during tough times, with layoffs in the headlines and uppermost on employees’ minds. At such times leaders need to redouble their efforts to tell employees the truth, balancing candor with compassion and hope with honesty.”
The issue may not be so much whether a law was broken or not (heck, who do you know who drives 65 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone?) but that the potential exposure from having things shared that you prefer not to be shared. Just ask GOP Presidential Candidate Ron Paul about the power of recorded video.
Here are four suggestions from the Pure Digital Manifesto that bear repeating:
- Mean what you say (and be comfortable if what you say was the headline of a newspaper)
- Communicate what you mean, (organizational tip: and do so iteratively and endlessly)
- Do what you say you’re going to do
- Fess up early and candidly when you mess up
If people do those four things, then the types of issues that spring up from the shift in privacy norms and technology will have significantly less adverse impact. People should think before they speak, and part of that thinking should be whether or not they want anyone else to know what they’ve said or what they’ve done – including the fact that blog stalkers are there to report out there concerns just like everyone else.
As Nick Bilton recently wrote – referring to our very digital lives in the Facebook era – in the New York Times, “privacy is on its deathbed.“
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.