Portfolio.com published a very interesting article today by Chip Robinson of Click Markets.

I urge you to visit the link to his article and read it. It discusses the effect technology has on eliminating the distinction each of us tries to construct separating our personal life from our business life. The article points out, as a by product of the major theme of the piece, that the internet is a major force breaking down this barrier. While there is a great deal of truth in that contention, it is also true that the internet, by virtue of its 'narrowcasting' ability; that is, its ability to allow small groups of like minded individuals to 'find' each other and crate sites dedicated to a narrow interest, the technology also sets a powerful countervailing force in motion. Namely, the internet allows people to find and associate with a group, or groups, each of which has only one, narrow area of interest. This possibility can, and has, unleashed a historically unparalleled opportunity for people motivated by specific passions to contact one another and maintain ongoing communications. In doing so, like minded persons can and do develop a digital community of interest. In the earliest days of the internet these communities of interest evolved, almost immediately, among aficionados of this still new medium of communications. This rapid evolution of specialized communities of interest testifies powerfully to the demand for these kinds of connections. Either through avatars or an individual separating his or her interest between different web based communities, individuals do make constant attempts to separate some of their interests from the view of the wider community. So, while I do not dispute the contention in the Robinson article that younger people do not perceive the need for separation between what is public from what is private and, by extension, what is personal from what is business, I believe the urge for this separation remains, in some degree, in all people. As the younger set ages and the perceived costs of a failure to separate certain interests from common knowledge grows greater, they too will impose, or attempt to impose, just such separations. While it is true that my children, having grown up with the internet, are far more comfortable with its amazing capacity to expose you in ways heretofore unimagined, that may prove be as much a function of the view point of the young versus the view point of the older person as it is from any inured comfort gleaned from familiarity with technology. They may find that their opinions about what is, and should remain private, will evolve as they grow older. I do not know anyone in my general age cohort who does not look back on his or her life without remembered moments of embarrassment, shame, regret and/or the deliciously thrilling sense of having 'gotten away with it.' I did not live a particularly licentious youth. But, even I, as pedestrian a life as I have led, have moments from my past that, had there been video cameras built into handheld pocket telephones and anything like the internet upon which any resulting images could be immediately and internationally published, would have been hard to explain to a teenager in need of discipline.

Even relatively public acts, such as one might see at any decently rowdy fraternity party, if captured in images available now, some forty years later, could not only undermine a parent's moral authority but could easily derail a Supreme Court nomination. When I have mentioned this concern to one or another of my children the standard response, aside for the fact that none of them are attorneys and will never be nominated to the Supreme Court, is that since everybody will have that sort of thing hanging over them, the force and effect of such stuff will be blunted. Perhaps, that is so. If it proves to be that all of us are to be an open book with all peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies and perversions public, then that may be a good thing. We are, all of us, human, and such a society would surely demonstrate that. All too often, serious decisions are reduced to trivial matters that may have happened long ago and have nothing to do with the character and ability of someone today. Maybe a society in which everybody's warts and special desires are known would be a society in which such decisions could not be made on the basis of trivialities, old or new. However, it may well be that openness will not fall evenly upon everyone and some will come through less scared than others. Those emerging less scared may not be so because they desired or experienced less than those 'caught' in the glare of the world wide web. If this proves to be the case, I am reminded of the reputed quote from Teddy Roosevelt who, when President and upon being urged to nominate someone to high federal office who had been indicted for something or other, raised the indictment as an objection to the action. "But, Mr. President," Roosevelt's advisors are alleged to have replied, "that was a long time ago and he was never convicted. And, he is a big supporter. We owe him." To this appeal Roosevelt is reputed to have said, "Very well, put him on the list and I will consider him after we have disposed of all the unindicted applicants." Like Teddy, there may be many, now and in the future, who will put anyone 'caught in the web' on the list right behind all those who were not caught. It is not simply the time bomb potential of a documented youthful indiscretion. What about all us everyday old aged perverts? And, you don't even have to be a pervert. You can just be a serious professional with a frivolous, private interest you would prefer stayed private. If you happen to be such a person and are active on the internet, then you have, or should have some concern. There are companies out there, trolling the internet, trying, and succeeding to a remarkable degree, to match up separate internet personas as being different personality facets of the same individual. Employment recruitment firms sometimes utilize such services. Likewise, competitors in business may attempt to gain some commercial advantage from such information. Regardless, this sort of research can hurt you. It can hurt you even if it is not true. Particularly in a closed information system, like an employment search, to which the 'victim' may never have access to the 'finding' presented

or know why he or she was passed over for a particular opportunity (unlike a credit report the findings of which are generally available to the subject of the findings), false information is as damaging, if not more damaging, than something real. There two countervailing forces at work. One is the instant leveling of barriers to privacy inherent in the technology. The other is the unparalleled opportunity to connect with small numbers of like minded folk sharing a narrow, even very narrow, common interest. This is a major by product of the new technology that directly affects everybody. It is one that may soon require each of us to develop a conscious coping strategy. Let's face it. We all have a bit of Mr. Hyde in us. The question is, do we trust society at large to see us in that role?