Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Message to MySpace users: Don't leave town

Long story short: woman goes missing, family distraught. Police and large, helpful internet community versed in finding missing persons have no luck, other than indications that she has left the state.

Question say no to MySpace logoAnd then .. someone suggests MySpace. [Cue music.] Bingo! Information about the missing woman begins to show up right away when the family starts checking with the missing woman's MySpace network. Most of her friend connections were on MySpace, and sightings of where she was and who she was with started coming right in.

It's much easier to teach ethics (and karma!) nowadays, by simply pointing out that your actions can be recorded or commented on and saved for decades on the internet for all to see. I don't think we've seen all the kinds of stories of people's internet information and connections catching up with them yet.

Ethics and scales of justice artworkFor example, a friend had a relative who didn't want to be found disappear some years ago, before MySpace. This was an unstable person, who incidentally was very entrepreneurial. Got me thinking how today's shady entrepreneurs are heavily involved in social media sites like MySpace, and the old story of "take the sucker's money and leave town" isn't going to play out like it used to.

Basically, the internet (supported by security and cell phone cameras) is making people more accountable. Politicians have certainly figured this out; they have become a collection of unflattering sound bytes and mashed-up internet videos.

And since heavy internet users skew young, it's like a giant, pre-adulthood ethics and reputation experiment. A lot of kids and young adults are still experimenting with letting pictures of them doing foolish thing show up on the web (and paying consequences).

I wonder: will the first internet generation develop a new common wisdom not only to avoid letting images or information about doing foolish things get on the internet, but to avoid doing foolish things in the first place? Or will they just create and accept a world where being a fool is the accepted standard? So far, it doesn't look good, but they're still young yet.

Of course, nothing will likely get rid of criminal behavior, but you have to love the story of the woman who took pictures of the thieves who stole her notebook by using the notebook's built in camera remotely. The happy ending: Thieves go online, victim logs in and takes their picture, police recover all stolen goods.

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