Twitter, it turns out, is public.


Plenty of people want to kill the president. This is pretty much just true, no matter which president in which country.  The risk increases if you’re particularly unpopular or particularly popular, and it also increases if you’re in a hostile area. I have to assume that lots of people want to hurt Barack Obama, and so he has this nifty thing called the secret service.  The watch he wears?  Gift from his detail.  I have to imagine that when your security detail, the thing that’s in between you and the people who want to kill you, you take the gift, and you enjoy it.  You’ll also note that Obama makes the occasional comment- there was something in the Matt Lauer interview around the Superbowl about the son of one of his personal agents.  These are the guys who have signed up to take a bullet for you– you don’t want them doing this because it’s their job, you want them doing it because they actually care about your well-being.  I mean, these are incredibly professional people, but in that split second, you don’t want ANYTHING to delay them doing their job.

I have nothing but respect for those men and women.  Many of them know the people they are protecting better than most, simply because they are there so often.  When you know someone well, you get the good, but you also get the bad.  And maintaining complete professionalism at all times? Not easy.

And when someone has agreed to die for you if need be, you don’t take that lightly.  And as much as you may feel that whatever restrictions they place on you curtails your freedom, they die before you do.  When it’s the Obama girls, as they grow up, it’s going to be very hard for them.  They aren’t mature enough to understand all the implications, and there will be difficulty.  I can understand that.  I feel bad for them–my parents were overprotective enough, I didn’t need the Secret Service.  (Some times, I might have had MORE freedom if I’d had a security detail.)

But adults?

I was uncomfortable with Bush II’s Surprise Thanksgiving Trip To Baghdad because of the people who had to risk their lives for him.  After seeing the TV special on it, I’m still uncomfortable.  But security said okay.  Bush did what he was told.  I’m uncomfortable, not angry.

I grew up understanding that I was responsible for what I put online.  When I was young, we had internet at home through my dad’s work, and they could theoretically look at what we were accessing.  When I was a bit older, people I knew were punished at school for things they said online, even when their names weren’t obviously attached.  It’s sadly tricky to find me using google, as Miss Illinois 2007 has taken most of the glory for my rather common name.  I would wager that most of the people my age do have some concept at this point that the drunken pictures on myspace might be seen by a future boss.  They might not care as much as they ought to, but it has occured to an ever increasing number of people.  And those older than me who have been on the internet for as long as I have (and longer) also understand this, maybe even better.

It’s great that the internet is opening up.  It’s great that we’ve gotten far enough into interactive Web 2.0 that people who haven’t been here the whole time are using Facebook and Twitter.  Kudos.

But you have to be responsible about content.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, announced his arrival in Iraq on Friday through his Twitter account. Problem was, the trip was supposed to be secret.

Top Secret information.  Security Clearance.  Intelligence Committee.  Common Sense. When Stephen Fry is surprised when he tweets while in the air and paparazzi greet him at the airport, that’s perhaps silly, but basically the worst happened- people took pictures of him.  He risked his own privacy, and it was breached (a little).  And since, he’s been a bit more careful.

Hoekstra didn’t risk his own privacy.  He risked his life, the lives of the other members of the delegation, and most of all, the lives of the people who have volunteered to take the bullets on his behalf.  Bush did something risky, but he did it for a clear gain- improving morale for troops in a difficult place.  Hoekstra?  What did he potentially gain?  Well, he has more people following him now.  But somehow I doubt it’s for the reasons he wants followers.

I’m not uncomfortable, I’m angry.  We have to be responsible for the content we put online.  And I’m worried he won’t be.


2 Responses to “Twitter, it turns out, is public.”

  1. 1 Jerry

    Honest……..even it’s moving.

  2. The sad truth is that your average person puts very little thought into what they type into a computer. For the majority of people, who didn’t grow up with computers like you and I, the computer screen is nothing more than a book. They see it simply as information like you would find in a library and anything they write into it is treated much more like a personal journal than a conversation. The massive growth of Google’s all seeing eye still hasn’t sunk in for many people, and when they suddenly do realize just how much information is publicly accessible it catches them completely off guard and most react rather violently against it – see the whole privacy debate about Google maps and particularly Google Street View. Much of what is on Google maps could be found simply by scaling neighboring buildings or climbing a tall hill. Everything on Street View was in public view of any person walking/driving down the street. And yet many would argue that this is an invasion of privacy simply because what was once a limited exposure is suddenly ubiquitous. It’s not that the information has become any more or less dangerous, nor private, it’s simply easier to obtain. (I know Google is a little off topic for the post but it’s an easy to grasp parallel to the discussion for the layperson.)

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