Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beware Of Your Digital Communications

Facebook has a cell phone application that allows you to converse on Facebook on your cell phone. If you use that the application will store those communications on your cell phone. If you are doing it from your computer, then Facebook stores those communications, and it depends on what kind of communications they are as to how long they hold them.

People need to understand that there are always three people on every conversation on Facebook, you, the person you are talking to and the Facebook server. If you delete your end of the conversation, there are still two copies, the Facebook server until Facebook deletes and the person you are talking to. So you need to understand that a simple deletion will only delete one piece of it.

Think of it as making photocopies, every time someone else is involved in the conversation there is a photocopy. To complicate things further if you are using a work computer, then the network server at work will back up your communication. So even if your part of the conversation is done and you delete it on your computer, the other person deletes it from his or her Facebook page and it is past the time that Facebook keeps its data, your boss may have a backup on the server.

Text messages from cell phones are generally not kept by the cell phone company for more than two weeks, but if they are on your cell phone, or if the person you are texting has them on his or her cell phone, it is the same photo copy concept. You have to find all of the copies, not just how long the phone company keeps them. And you have to remember that they may have been printed out, saved on a computer or stored somewhere.

Keep in mind that when you are texting sometimes you are probably also calling that person. So although the cell phone company will not have records of the words you are saying, it will have a record of the phone numbers.

In a divorce, the first thing a divorce lawyer will do is subpoena the phone records and subpoena the person he or she has called to testify about the affair.

Both instant messages and e-mails leave trails of cyber bread crumbs and can be subpoenaed from the IM and e-mail providers. E-mails are typically kept for up to six months and more. So if you are doing something you don't want others to see, the simply don't do it or don't do it in writing, digital or otherwise.

Tiger Woods, Senator John Ensign, and Kwame Kilpatrick ( the mayor of Detroit ), were well respected public figures at the top of their game, then disgraced in part because allegations of misconduct came to light through text messages.

But public figures aren't the only ones who stand to lose. In a growing phenomenon, more and more everyday Americans are discovering their partners' transgressions through text messages and e-mails.

One Delta Airlines flight attendant was fired for an Internet posting of a picture her boss didn't like.

A Canadian woman, Nathalie Blanchard, who was on long term sick leave from IBM for major depression said her employer's insurance company stopped paying her benefits after it discovered photos in which she seemed to having fun, the pictures indicated she was no longer depressed and ready to return to work. She had posted the pictures on Facebook.

Heather Armstrong was fired from her job at a software company because she posted unflattering work information on her personal blog. Her bosses were never named in the postings.

"Texting is the new lipstick on the collar," said Parry Aftab, a privacy and Internet safety lawyer. "People don't think when they're having an affair, they don't think when they're leaving a trail of cyber bread crumbs behind them that their spouse may see. They'll log on, they'll take pictures, they'll text, thinking somehow, because it's on their cell phone, nobody will see it."

That kind of thinking gets people in trouble, and not just in their relationships. Technology that's designed to help people communicate in new ways such as e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and so many other social networking media, is also getting people fired and ruining reputations.

The technology you use to communicate with others can come back to haunt you.

We need to realize that if you're doing it in the digital world, there is a digital footprint.

This article is brought to you by the editors of .

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