A Social-Sharing Privacy Pitfall

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Being a late-comer to social-media, I’m discovering its pleasures — and pitfalls.

Among the pitfalls is that it’s easy to hold a private conversation in public, without realizing it. And “share” way more than we intended!

20130523-150231.jpgThis happens a lot to politicians and celebrities. They make some unguarded comment, not realizing there’s an open microphone nearby. In the last presidential race, one such slip may have been among the key deciding factors.

Anyway, here’s a trap to not fall into:

Twice this week — once on Facebook, and once on Google Plus — I found myself in online conversations I thought were strictly private. Turns out they were entirely public, and readable by the whole world.

The Email Trap

It’s the email tie-in: In each case, someone used the social-media outlet to comment on a link I had posted. I’m notified of the comment by email. (I don’t hang out continuously in online social settings. Email is where I live, and I’m used to thinking of that as private.)

Anyway, each of the comments, when I receive it, looks pretty much like a regular email. More important, the tone and content strongly suggest that it’s a personal message — not the sort of thing anyone would say in public. So I click “reply” and send back an email. Then comes another email, followed by my next reply, and so forth. This kind of interaction can go on for a long time. And it has the same look-and-feel as any regular email.

Lo and behold, when I later glance at that river-of-sharing that constitutes socializing on Facebook and Google Plus — there are the entire conversations, visible to everyone. Nothing scandalous. So far. Lucky me. Because I can’t promise that there might not have been. Or that I won’t forget again.

Go ahead and laugh. Please! Because out of all the millions of people jumping into social networking, I’m sure no one else has ever gotten confused by the interface.

You can also bet that this particular mistake won’t be my last. I’m fairly good — not perfect — about learning from past mistakes. But sometimes I amaze myself by my ingenuity at finding ways to make new ones.

Have you ever said too much on a social forum because you forgot you were sharing publicly? Please feel free to tell your story in the comments section below.

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