In a prophetic blog post published on IT news site, The Verve, internet users have been encouraged to come to terms with the fact that, sooner or later, every piece of data they share online will be made public.
Despite the semi-comedic tone of this article, the author actually makes a serious point that, faced with a spiralling number of high profile data breaches, it might be time for us to consider the possible consequences of our own online behaviour before implicitly trusting website owners to take the necessary precautions in protecting our information.
This may seem a defeatist standpoint but recent events give it credence. The Ashley Madison saga and the accidental leaking by a London health clinic of the names of nearly 800 HIV patients, demonstrate that our data is prone to exposure not only through hacking, but also by human error.
The 5 laws of your life online
Blog author Chris Plante presents the following five laws, which he suggests govern our lives online, adding ‘whether or not you choose to learn these laws is irrelevant, as you will be tried by them regardless.’
Assume everything you do and say will be made public.
Do not be seduced by privacy settings and passwords, which are temporary illusions that distract from the reality of the previous point.
Understand that context and data are often one and the same. When you enter information on the internet, assume that you include the who (you), the what (the data), the when (the time of data input), the where (the site on which the data is being placed), the how (the device on which you input the data), and the why (the purpose of the site).
Believe that all of your credit card transactions are being kept in a colossal, searchable ledger that one day will be made available for all to study.
Believe that data does not disappear when you delete it.
Plante compares our ordinary lives to those of celebrities who have lived for years in constant fear of the infringement of their privacy. He describes his vision of an insecure online world in which we join their ranks.
He writes: “Now, we will all be celebrities, and our gossip-worthy dramas will be of our own doing, should we not consider our actions - in the real world and online - have repercussions.”