CNN recently ran an excellent article asking this question. The article included five case studies on privacy issues being raised by all our new technology. The connecting question was whether and how our old privacy laws apply to this new environment.

To me, the answer is simple. Yes, you are responsible for anything you write, whether you post it on Twitter, a personal blog or by regular mail. If your words would be libelous when published in the newspaper, they are equally libelous published online. (Of course, speaking the truth is the best defense against accusations of libel.)

The problem in my opinion is that being online gives some people an illusion of anonymity. (And, yes, it is an illusion – more on that in future posts.) This illusion encourages some to say things that they would never say in person. This is unacceptable to me. If you have something to say, stand up and be proud. Take all the credit – and all the blame – that your words deserve. Stand behind your words, whether you post them on Facebook or shout them from a soapbox in the village square.

In fairness, there are a few exceptions to that rule. Political dissent can be quite dangerous in some parts of the world. I am lucky enough to live in a country that explicitly protects political speech. Many in this world are not so blessed. True anonymity has a place in that arena and should be protected wherever and however possible. But short of the level of physical danger, you are responsible for what you say and should not expect otherwise.

Most other privacy “conundrums” are equally easy to solve if you fairly apply the old principles to the new environment. The differences are of degree and speed, not in the fundamental principles.

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