Online Privacy Doesn't Exist

Does online privacy exist?

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz DNC’s email scandal is just the latest in a constant string of public missteps involving emails, posts and texts sent or shared online, not originally intended for public consumption, that became public and led to scandal.  She, like most people who use email, likely assumed her email wouldn't be shared with the world.  She, of course was wrong and now she and the Democratic Party are now dealing with fallout from the reality that online privacy doesn't really exist .

How many times do we have to hear about people having to resign, getting fired, being sued or getting suspended or expelled for us to understand that once you hit “enter” you are essentially giving up control of whatever it is you’re sending or sharing.  Just because you think something you share or send online OUGHT to be private, doesn’t make it so.

You can put privacy notices in your emails and you can enable privacy settings on your social media or texting accounts but can you really and truly stop someone from sharing or copying and sharing something you sent or posted online?  In a word, NO.  The term online privacy is really an oxymoron - once you put something online, you can never be sure that it will stay private.

While there may be consequences that person has to face for sharing your personal or private message, image or post, often the damage done to you when your content becomes public is far more damaging than any consequence the person who chose to share your content receives.

As a digital society, we need to constantly remind ourselves and those we care for that there is absolutely NO guarantee of privacy when we send or share something online.

We need to pause before we send/post ANYTHING online and ask ourselves how we’d feel if what we’re sending/sharing became public.

After we ask ourselves that question and determine that nothing in the electronic submission/communication could cause us any harm, embarrassment or hurt others, then it’s okay to hit “send”.  If, however, there is any question in our mind that we or others might experience blow-back or harm as a result of the transmission becoming public, then we need to think about using a non-digital form of communication to express ourselves.

Our society has become so accustomed to communicating online because it’s easy and fast that in the moment, when we have something to say or share, we forget about considering the consequences that are always present when we add to our permanent digital footprints.


Julie Fisher, M.Ed., is the founder of The Social U and consults with schools, organizations and individuals through the MJ Fisher Group.  

Twitter: @Julz Fisher, @the_social_u

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