Privacy Starts Between Your Brain and Your Keyboard

By | May 18, 2010

Last week in Charlotte a waitress lost her job for a disparaging Facebook comment she made about some customers. One of her facebook “friends” brought it to the attention of the management of the restaurant she worked at and she was relived of her duties.
The outcry of violation of her right to free speech surprises me. Not that people want to come down on a business that fired an employee over this, but surprised that people don’t really understand what the first amendment says about free speech.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is nothing that says free speech won’t have consequences nor does it protect you from an employer expressing his right to enforce business policies about conduct unbecoming an employee, especially in a work at-will state such as North Carolina.
I’ve heard argument about the waitress’s right to privacy. She should’ve exercised that right between her brain and her keyboard. Facebook is a public forum and to expect your words not to be noticed; well, it goes against the intended purpose of posting them to begin with doesn’t it.

The younger generation has been beguiled into thinking Facebook is like a diary for your inner most thoughts. When in fact it is the most public of forums and should be used with caution and care.

Two weeks ago a daughter of a close friend posted with excitement she was engaged. I was surprised to know this and texted her father for details. Based on the “de-friending” I received from the daughter followed by her post, “I hate Facebook” I think the father learned about the impending nuptials from my text message.

This week a neighbor’s son received a red T-top Trans Am for his 15th birthday which he immediately posted a picture of on facebook with the caption “My new whip.” He and his sister then got into a friendly sibling rivalry publically about who had the nicer car, to which one friend commented, “Rich kids…”

I recently read information that a couple in Louisville, KY announced on facebook they were going to a concert only to return to a ransacked house. The security camera caught the robber in the act. Turns out it was one of their facebook “friends.”
Do you really know what that high school friend from 30 years ago is like today? Do you add friends to build your numbers? Do you really need to inform people of your every move?

Instead of bantering on about the first amendment to the Bill of Rights, maybe we should be talking about the creation of a new document entitled The Internet Information Code of Conduct.

Why is this necessary? Aside from the illustrations I’ve already mentioned, a man was killed and his son beaten by the couple who showed up to purchase the diamond ring he advertised on Craig’s list.

Thieves are using non-MLS real estate listings to check out the pictures of the rooms for the valuables such as TVs and computers, etc.

Speaker friends of mine like to post what cities they are flying to and if they are using geotagging software such as foursquare or Gowalla, it gets picked up by the website And the stories can go on and on.

Some things are better left unsaid as I hope the fired waitress now understands. There are times when using discretion is the responsibility of the individual. It’s time to reconsider what information truly has a need for public consumption and what should be kept privately. In some cases, information may not even need to be shared at all.

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