Are You Really Private?

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From the Snowden leaks last year, to all of the ‘cyber breaches’ and loss of personal information from large retailers in the last couple of years; we as a global village are finding out that keeping things to yourself is not as easy as it once was.

All of the social media platforms compound the difficulty of keeping our private information private, and we all struggle with the increasing importance to do so.

In a world where EVERYTHING is ‘out there forever’ as soon as it’s set in to the wild, and where almost everything is subject to discovery in our increasing litigious society; I see an increase in the number of secure messaging apps aiming to help keep conversations private; for example;

Sicher, Silent Circle, CyberDust, Signal, et al. all use end to end encryption and data destruction to provide a means for groups of people to communicate with each other securely and privately.

Even WhatsApp, the popular text messaging replacement application is starting to use end to end encryption.

But I’ve noticed another trend unique to these secure applications; while they have provided a means of ‘hiding from prying eyes’ they have fostered a new sort of social media platform.

For example one of my favorite new apps is CyberDust (available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone). CyberDust not only provides secure person to person messaging because everything runs over an encrypted channel, and the messages self destruct after a short period of time AND are NEVER stored on their servers or any endpoint; CyberDust also provides a sort of ‘Twitter-Like’ platform where a person can ‘Blast’ a message to a group of subscribed followers.

I’ve been using CyberDust to sort of ‘Pre-Publish’ posts, as a platform that allows me to get something ‘out-there’ quickly without a lot of editing, and in somewhat longer format than the Twitter limit of 140 characters.

I find this feature incredibly useful, because I can send raw unedited posts to my followers without worrying too much about the editorial content, grammar, and so forth; and since I save my posts to Evernote, I can come back at a more convenient time, clean them up and post them on LinkedIn or my blog (blog.ross-sivertsen.com).
But I’ve noticed as I’ve used CyberDust, something more disturbing occurring; many of the people I follow, some of them professionals, are posting pictures and comments I believe they would think twice about posting if the platform they were using was as open as Facebook, or Twitter.

Let me say before I continue, that I’m neither Polly Anna nor prudish about this subject, and I am in NO WAY making a judgment about anyone I follow; I publish a number of posts that are all raw, unedited, and sometimes incendiary.

What I am saying is; even with a platform that leaves no physical nor virtual evidence of pictures, posts or comments; when we intentionally broadcast a message to a group of people, do we not leave with our audience, followers and listeners a residual impression of who we are; whether or not evidence exists?

This subject goes beyond privacy issues and quickly is an issue of reputation management. The fact of the matter is regardless of whether or not the platform is secure and encrypted, I am sending a post out to the public, i.e. more than one person to whom I have no personal relationship other than they follow me, rather than one or two people with whom I have a relationship and where the conventional social contract of confidentiality is the norm.

I believe in the right to personal expression and exercise said personal expression frequently, I am also acutely aware of the consequences of my actions, and of the things I publish or portray.

My point is that this message becomes a cautionary tale to everyone (most of all myself) that we leave a lasting impression of who we are and what were about with the people around us; even if the evidence self destructs after 30 seconds.

Three people can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” – Benjamin Franklin

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