Sunday, August 1, 2010

Netcheck- to google or not to google

To google or not to google is the question. To be your own private detective and find out what you can about the unsuspecting. Is there some expectation that if the information is ‘out there’ on the net, then it is in the public domain and therefore the public have a right to view it? What if a persons details or information are published without consent or against their wishes, or if they have no choice (ie workplaces might post a profile of them including their role, Newspapers might print articles about events, awards and recognition.. etc you get the point), or the person might not be that I.T. savvy and may not understand that once they post something it is ‘out there’ and good luck trying to reclaim it and control its use and spread. ....

Some people I spoke with recently casually commented that they google people all the time, ‘netcheck’ is the label I have given it. These people see no issue in wanting to know more about the person who is dating their friend, or even in finding out info on their friends or work colleagues for that matter. The only issue that arises is when you are told something you already know, do you state ‘yeah I read that online’ and ruin their moment of sharing, or do you deceive them and act as if this was the first time you had heard this? ‘wow !! thats amazing I had no idea’..  (drum roll…….) and the academy award for best actor/actress goes to…….

The internet: instant, full of up to date, truthful and accurate information, so why not use it, especially to assist you in important matters. Has this become the modern way to form an impression of a person? Let’s dispense with the actual meeting and dialogue, netchecking helps you form your first impressions. It is almost as if we are bypassing our morals, our personal and cultural code of ethics… Where we might see it as being an invasion of privacy to go through our neighbors’ garbage bags, awaiting collection- sitting publicly on the nature strip, we have no qualms in using the internet to find out all we can. Is this because it is often done behind closed doors, in the safety of our homes and importantly- no one can see us doing it or knows what was done, so this makes it ok? Besides, everyone is doing it! ....

I met a man recently on a trip on the other side of the world, and yes am a little infatuated with him..can you blame me? He is full of lovely qualities, and handsome as well. Jackpot!!! We have been exchanging emails and though he is a private person, he has been sharing some personal things about himself. Recently he shared something that made me want to know more about I googled him. Yeah, I know… everyone else is doing it, so I thought why not! and I am at home with the curtains drawn, no one will see me.  As soon as I hit the search button I felt that I had betrayed him.  I felt even worse (If it was possible), once I realized that the info that was posted on line, wasn’t from him, wasn’t from a site of his own, wasn’t from a public blog or a social networking site he was on and spewing forth info- for all to see. The info that was posted was from employers, academic institutions and media. He is a distinguished professional and what was posted was his story, his story to share with whom he chose, when he chose, if at all. What right did I have to seek out information about him in this manner? My motive for doing this?.. purely to sate my curiosity, which makes the fact that I did this, even worse. I felt as if I had broken his trust for he is a private man and in essence I snuck into his world and searched out, brazenly unraveling his story. I stole from him his opportunity to disclose.  'Stealing'- Is there any other way to describe netchecking?....

Is netchecking one step away from hiring a private detective? and if not why? How are we justifying this invasion of privacy to intentionally search without permission, just because we can and are curious, does this mean we should and even have a moral right to?   If the sanitation department listed the contents of peoples garbage bags they had collected and posted this information online, would that make rummaging through your neighbours garbage bags acceptable? Where do we draw the line and reconnect with our sense of morality? Why don’t we just talk? ask questions, be genuinely surprised by what we are told and let others decide on what they are comfortable sharing about themselves.

"It's like watching the detectives" (elvis costello), or is it like peeping through windows and  watching the dishonest steal?.

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