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I'm working on a project for a client that, in turn, is working with another client that insists on secrecy. My days are packed with meetings in an anonymous building and emails on a secure server. I don't have access to the internal network, so I pack in my own connection using a cellular hot spot.
It's a fascinating project but I'm starting to feel like Dustin Hoffman's character in Wag the Dog who was recruited to fake a war, but "You can't ever tell anyone about it or we'll come to your house and kill you."
I tend to write my blog about whatever is on my mind, and in my eclectic profession, I usually have a lot of topics on my mind to choose from. But when I'm on a project like this, I'm more focused, so I have fewer things on my mind, and those things aren't really things I can talk about.
There was a time that we would share our professional lives gladly, even promote our companies and what we do for a living and social events with “get to know you” lines like, “Nice to meet you. So tell me, what do you do?” We made jokes about the guy with a wallet full of family photos, and we certainly didn’t want to know about your CAT scan or recent death in the family. That would just be awkward.
But, in this world of Social Media and text messaging our privacy has become reversed. We don’t talk about work. We can’t talk about work. I’ve signed contracts that say I won’t talk about who I’m working for or what I’m doing. Contracts with real penalties.
On the personal side, I not only share so much about where I am and what I’m doing, I’ve agreed to Terms of Service that say that Facebook or Google can check in on me from time to time to see what I’m up to. Once I post that picture of me and Markie at a wild party next to a man wearing chaps and nothing else, I’m contractually obligated to let them share it with whoever they want to share it with.
And, it turns out, those Terms of Service contracts are almost as weighty as the non-disclosure agreements I sign with my clients. That case of “cyber bullying” a few years back went to criminal court, not on the merits of the bullying, but because the defendants violated Facebook’s Terms of Service by posting false information about themselves.
The DA successfully convicted the girl and her mother for “unlawful access to a computer system,” a law usually reserved for hackers and Wikileakers, not because they used a computer system to push a troubled girl over the edge and commit suicide, but because they didn’t share real, personal information about themselves.
And not sharing your real name/sex/age/location with Facebook violates their Terms of Service, and, apparently, federal law.
So, maybe that “corporations are taking over the world” argument with the Occupy Wall Street protests is moot. Corporations are now the private life, the refuge from the glare of community scrutiny, and our private lives belong to the public platform of Facebook, Twitter and Google.