A Note Regarding Internet Privacy
Earlier this evening, I received a message from a friend of mine asking me to explain and illuminate some privacy stuff with regard to the latest release of Facebook.com (a social networking site similar to MySpace). My response to her ended up being less of a personal correspondence, and more of a general blurb that deserved wider attention. I then posted it on my blog.
After a little more idle reflection before hurrying off to work, I realized that the last bit of my blurb was something that applies to all of us Internet users. In fact, it is a point that most people don't think about, let alone understand.
It doesn't matter how much "security" is built into the website itself. It is still hosted on publicly accessible machines that we have no real control over. Any and all information that we put on there should be considered completely public. It can go literally anywhere at literally any time. Who knows how many people have access to Facebook's backend databases? We have absolutely no control over where this information goes or how it is used. We can only trust that Zuckerberg & Co. actually do what they say they do, and that any future owners of Facebook can be similarly trusted. And this goes not only for Facebook, but also for every single website, web-service, and web-application anywhere.
Parsing and caching by search engines, archival by the Wayback Machine, even backups made by your web host all disseminate information posted online to locations that are outside of your direct control as well. It's a reality of the system, and it isn't going to change. Please read my original post before sending hate-comments calling me a Facebook-hater. I'm not.
This isn't being paranoid, it's just common sense, mixed with a bit of technical knowledge about how the system works. "Know where your information is going, what could happen to it, and act accordingly. It's as simple as that."