There seems to be a lot of concern these days about putting stuff on MySpace or Facebook accounts (to name a couple types) that may be incriminating. Justified? Totally. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if police agencies, employers, etc. are poking around there looking for clues about you and your activities. Whether this is right or not is an extremely loaded topic for another day. Regardless of whatever ethics are involved, people absolutely should watch what they write on their MySpace accounts. The Internet is wide-open to the entire world. What’s posted on one site can be read anywhere else. People talk about this as if it’s a new thing; seasoned Web publishers know from the early days of the Internet not to post anything they wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper that their parents, friends, co-workers, lovers, etc. would read the next day.
For the first time, however, this rule is hitting the mainstream in a huge way. MySpace has made Web publishing (I use the term loosely) accessible to a vast majority of people who would have never considered it before. It doesn’t matter how good you are with computers to do it; they’ve made it nearly foolproof to do so. Unfortunately, this is like a bunch of people jumping into cars without ever learning the rules of the road, and as a result, it’s not difficult to find sites laden with pictures or written accounts of activities that may be considered sub-legal. However, there is an illusion amongst unseasoned Internet publishers that what they write can only be seen by their friends, etc. They’re sorely mistaken if this is what they think. The rule ALWAYS applies – if your friends can read it, so can everyone else with access to a computer with Internet connectivity — and this doesn’t exclude people one would want NOT to read their profile.
So yes, the hype is perfectly justified, but nothing to fear – it’s just time to play by the same rules I and (most) other Web content publishers have adhered to for the last 10+ years.