Public Relations Implications of Internet Privacy

Internet privacy is a hot topic these days. Article after article is being written about how unsafe content can be online. While there is some truth to these issues and certainly reasons to be cautious, when it comes to privacy online, that horse left the barn a long time ago. Even if you take steps to keep things hidden, secret or protected, if it’s online you need to assume it’s public knowledge.But what does this mean in the world of public relations? Plenty. Pay close attention now, and apply this wisdom before you click SHARE or SEND ever again.

Keep it professional

Only post content you’d love to see passed around a boardroom at your next big meeting. If you think your content will keep you from landing that big account, it’s better not to post it. Now, I know some people out there have two profiles, one “public” and one “private.” Guess what. There may be a setting on the social media, but there’s not such a thing as “private.” Just ask a certain NYC mayoral candidate.

Context cannot protect you

Any statement uttered in print or online or across Twitter can be ripped out of context and displayed in the most damning ways. Happens to some poor sap every day. He gets in an exchange with a friend or a frenemy and suddenly his daughter is reading an abbreviated version of part of one sentence on Reddit. Most politicians realize this, which is why they speak in carefully vetted sound bites. TV made open discourse nearly impossible. The Internet has only made it worse. Much, much worse.

Content never disappears

Some Internet users have learned a bit late in the game that “deleted” doesn’t really mean gone. And certainly not gone forever. Even if you pull a misstatement or unflattering image down, you better assume someone else has seen it and already clicked COPY and PASTE. Depressing? Maybe. Stressing? Could be. I wasn’t there when you went to Cancun on Spring Break. But if you were, and you did a few things you don’t want your kids, coworkers, parents or business rivals getting ‘hold of, you better make very certain it never appears online.

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, an NYC-based PR firm specializing in corporate and consumer public relations

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