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Home » Technology, Web 2.0

What has Facebook and Michael Phelps Got in Common?

Submitted by on February 20, 2009 6 Comments
Uploaded on Flickr by Donna62

Uploaded on Flickr by Donna62

This weeks embrulio about the change in terms of service for the Facebook terms of service has unlined an immutable truth about social networking. Facebook has done an about face on the terms but this has not stopped speculation that Facebook is doing an end run around it’s users.

However of more concern is the longer term impact of Facebook and it’s archive capabilities on a users future. Our perspective of the future at 20 years old, is vastly different from one in their 20s or 30s or 40s. In your youth you are far more inclined to view camera photos, goof off video, or that bong photo can be seriously problematic in the future. The Facebook incident has clearly shown that there is an uneasy alliance between the commercial requirements of the network and the privacy of the users, and without a certain vigilance this is always going to be the case.

Consider the Michael Phelps Mea Culpa:

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” Phelps said. “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to…

[New York Times - 1st Feb 2009]

In a statement on Sunday, Phelps said that “despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way……[f]or this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public-it will not happen again.”

[College News- 2nd Feb 2009]

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” he said in a statement, and he promised his “fans and the public it will not happen again.”

[Greenville News - 15th Feb 2009]

Phelps learned that lesson quite early in life and it had a considerable negative impact on his income with a number of endorsers rethinking their support for him. Nonetheless the photo cannot now be removed from the collective archive known as the internet.

This incident only exemplifies the fact that your information, that your provide online is a permanent record and you need to treat it as such. Although there are rudimentary privacy features and rules in place on social networks, it is unreasonable to expect that this information will not leak out. This is because although you control your friends and their access, you do not control what they do with that photo or video.

The broad rule on the internet is that everything is public and you should treat it as such. Michael Phelps learnt that lesson the hardway.

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