Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hostages to fortune

Wired News reports that an old piece of writing may come back to haunt Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, in the light of the recent Supreme Court decision on Grokster. According to Wired, Cohen said he's unhappy that the Supreme Court's decision is forcing him to confront something he wrote more than five years ago. He added, "Anybody who thinks that they might produce technology at some point in the future that might be used for piracy has to watch everything that they say."

It's not just someone who might produce technology who has to be careful; it's everyone. Something I wrote in this explicitly personal blog was used to gain leverage against my employer. After that, I went through a great deal of soul searching about whether I should continue to write in my own name. It would have been much easier to write anonymously, as many do. I decided that the risk was outweighed by the beneficial discipline (and terror) of writing under my own name.

Forgotten indescretions have always had the power to come haunting. The difference today is that they're so indestructible. Digital posts are backed up and cached and copied and never go away (except for the ones you'd like to keep, which are governed by Murphy's Law and disappear without a trace). As I said my post about Miranda Murphy, the following rules apply:
Everything you say digitally will be remembered, and can be used against you.
If something you say can be misinterpreted, it will.
Caveat auctor!

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