Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MySpace used to show lack of remorse

NPR has an interesting audio (available here) of how a prosecutor used a defendant's MySpace page to show state of mind and a lack of remorse.

The defendant killed another person during a crash while driving under the influence of alcohol. The prosecutor feels the MySpace page was very helpful in obtaining a prison sentence.

When will people learn to set their profiles to private if they're going to be honest about themselves (and their vices) on MySpace?


Language Lover said...

Not just MySpace...it boggles my mind how many people post highly personal thoughts and information on the very public Internet. When I was a kid, diaries were written in code and kept under lock and key. Now they're made available to anyone and everyone, the more readers the better. How did the value of privacy change so much in a generation?

Safety Neal said...

The evolution of these privacy norms is a fascinating topic. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I have some ideas.

The illusion of anonymity offered by the Internet disinhibits people. People post under a psuedonym and think they're untraceable.

The generation that is "born digital", the kindergartners of today, will never know a world without webcams, pervasive surveillance and people blogging their most intimate thoughts. They will never know the world of paper diaries, in a generation the privacy norms will be radically re-drawn. But it will take a while for the court system to catch up with these changes.

While not related to privacy in general, for this blog post, I would suggest that criminals (from petty thieves to felons) often fail to predict the consequences of their actions, they don't anticipate the inevitable fallout and the prospects for getting caught. I think this propensity for poor decision-making naturally follows them online.

I enjoy their stupidity in a Schadenfreude way.

Language Lover said...

I agree with you about criminal stupidity (in both senses of the word "criminal")...the mechanism will evolve with the times, but the lack of forethought remains.

The illusion of anonymity is one factor in the appeal of personal blogs, but I think another is the exaggerated sense of importance brought by the idea that one's words are being read. I admit to checking the reader stats on my blog frequently and being pleased when the traffic is high. At the same time, I have friends who post things I assume they don't want their bosses or parents reading, who monitor their reader stats and then freak out when there are hits that come from sites they don't recognize. There's something very strange about the competing forces of exhibitionism and privacy.