On the internet,, everybody knows you’re a dog.

The latest Craigslist kerfluffle described here at Slashdot reminds me of the case from about a year and a half ago of someone posting their chat sessions with a plagiarist soliciting them for an essay. In both cases, you have people assuming that their one-on-one conversations will be kept private and sharing information with a complete stranger that they would not want made public.
Clearly, this is not a nice thing to do. I think it is also unethical – unlike the plagiarism case where the recipient of the advances was able to check that such behavior was prohibited at the student’s school, there is no reason to believe that what these people are doing is wrong, even if they are married. Certainly, it is anti-social. The same “experimental results” about rates and types of responses to an on-line solicitation could have been reported while ensuring the respondants identities.
But, it is unbelievably stupid to not assume this will happen every time you share personal information over the internet. One response has been that this type of revelation of personal information is illegal, citing Washington state law. I hope the problem with this objection is obvious – not everyone on the internet is governed by the same laws – they may be in different states or countries. In short, there is no way to stop this without fundamentally changing the structure of the internet.
It’s simple – if you wouldn’t say it to your mom, your boss, your best friend, your worst enemy, and your next door neighbor, don’t say it on the internet to a complete stranger!

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