Monday, September 10, 2007

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog -- but they can find out

The wonderful cartoon of two dogs, one sitting at a computer telling his friend, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." That's been a piece of wisdom for many years. It's the reason bloggers feel comfortable saying outrageous things they might not say in their every day persona. It's also the reason pedophiles can cruise on social networks for kids.

But we also know, if we think about it, that people with time, money and know-how can figure out most any Internet persona. Nothing is private in cyberspace. Take the 1-L student from Boalt Hall who, two days after Virgina Tech, posted anonymously to discussion board this post:

Just decided not to do a murder-suicide copycat at Hastings Law. I went to bed all seet for "Bloody Wednesday, but when I woke -- to sun, to flowers in bloom -- I just couldn't bring myself to suit up. Maybe tomorrow; I hear rain's in the forecast.
The FBI was called in. The dean at Hastings closed the school. And when the FBI IDd the student who posted the threat, the dean at Boalt recommended expulsion. The student faced probably criminal charges. This took place last April, during finals -- can you think of a way to add more stress to law students at finals time? AARRGH. SF Chronicle. See also Memoirs of Boalt , a blog for students at that law school, announcing the dean's decision to expel the student, who wrote under the moniker "Trustafarian."

Then, there are all the students who post hip-seeming images of themselves getting wasted, partying and getting nekked. Then, they find out potential employers (and some school officials, too!) are searching social networking sites to do background checks applicants. Ooops.

article in NY Daily News, the always yellow paper that headlined the article, "Holy torts! Law student in erotic video," about a Brooklyn Law student who participated in a little-notice Playboy shoot, "Rock Star and the Lawyer." But then a snippet featuring the student showed up all over the Internet. CBS News from June, 2006 about employers researching on Facebook. This article from last March about British employers using Facebook and other social networking sites to research job applicants and another. article in June about the same issue, both in Personnel Today.

Then, there is the sad case where somebody spoofs posts from another, and trashes the second person's reputation. For instance, this Wikipedia article on the scandals involving Autoadmit includes a paragraph on the Impersonator of S.R. Sidarth.

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