By Patrick Skarr, Senior Account Supervisor
Last week those seeking anonymity on the Internet were rattled when the Guardian Newspaper published an explosive story, “Revealed: how Whisper app tracks ‘anonymous’ users,” that alleged that their service was in fact tracking their users’ whereabouts and posts. (The service has aggressively pushed back on the allegation.)
I don’t know what the Whisper app is or does, and immediately thought of the hushed conversation in the Metra quiet car when I heard of the service’s name. Regardless the allegations triggered righteous indignation from its user base that the app promising anonymity failed.
This story is akin to Lucy taking the football away from Charlie Brown; how many times does the public need to be lulled into believing that this app, publishing service, etc. is truly secure and impenetrable? (See the latest snafu involving Snapchat, didn’t see that coming.)
This service reportedly nabbed the confidence of “military personnel,” a “sex-obsessed lobbyist,” and political staffers, to name a few.”
As a teen, I remember visiting with a politician who has now moved up the ladder of public service and asking him how he dealt with the microscope of public attention. His advice, ‘don’t do, say or write anything you wouldn’t want run on the front page of the paper in the first place.’
Substitute paper for the expansive universe of the Internet and the advice is a little more apt for today’s era. The fundamental point of this post is this: there is no such thing as anonymity in the Internet era.
Given this, I’ve adapted Mark Twain’s advice, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt,” when it comes to commenting on social media platforms.
If you are saying something that requires this level of secrecy, there is a decent probability you don’t need to say it in the first place. I suppose if you’re doubling as an international super-spy perhaps, complaining about your boss, coworker or clients, probably not.
There is no substitute for commonsense and the willingness to defer saying, posting, or emailing a note in the heat of the moment. The best way to prevent a crisis or getting in hot water over a text, tweet, email, blog, comment, is to get up, walk away and come back before you hit send.
Your conscience should guide you. Then again, there are a bevy of talented PR flaks to help explain what you didn’t mean to say in the first place.