Digital Duality and the illusion of privacy and ownership

The days of digital privacy are over, or should I say that they never existed. There are factions of users on the internet with professional jobs that believe they should have a right to digital privacy.  This article is not to argue philosophy or point of view it is simply meant to cast a light on one fact, that when you post anything online it is instantly and for perpetuity part of your digital footprint.

Two things have inspired me to write this piece.  Firstly I have noted that severyal twitter users attach the disclaimer “All Tweets are my own” and while at a conference this week I encountered several educators who indicated that they were using twitter but just for their own stuff and that they do not share their twitter account.

To address the first issue, the idea that when you say things online you are speaking for yourself alone and that somehow putting the phrase “All my tweets are my own” absolves you of any accountability to your employer and to them you is in my opinion false.  In Canada where I live an employer has the right to release you from employment if your activities cause their business/institution harm. Teachers are not exception see my related post _______.  The fact is that what we do in public/internet influences the perception that the public has of you as well as your employer.  Even Student teachers have fallen victim to misunderstanding their rights and responsibilities as budding professionals, and universities are levying sanctions against their social media activities including expulsions. This is a tough lesson to learn and I believe that we need to educate students earlier and develop responsible use in schools before university.

The other way to interpret the aforementioned phrase is that somehow you have claimed ownership of your Tweets and again that is not as clear as stated.  If you produce an idea or product while in the employ of your current employer they may have a right to it, but seriously what could you really be up to in 140 characters that is so golden that your employer must have it.Twitter for me is about sharing ideas, collaboration, and stretching my understanding of the world we live in.

If you put it on the internet others can find it, copy, modify, retain, and share what you have posted so be mindful of what footprints you leave behind.

Before you post anything online you should consider what Budah said,

If you propose to speak,

always ask yourself,

is it true,

is it necessary,

is it kind.” ~ Buddha

Here is a great flowchart for students and teachers to make sure that they are making positive contributions to their digital footprint by Common Sense Media.


The second idea of maintaining two identities or of having an online presence which does not have anything to do with your work life is impossible to maintain in my opinion. Because online privacy is an illusion you always need to be as cautious about what you post as if you were talking at an assembly at your school or better yet approaching the mic as MC at a Christmas concert where dozens of parents are filming your words and archiving them forever.

Lastly there is an intersection between work and play that hits a sweet spot, Create a digital footprint that reflects who you are and use the ability to collaborate with others to self actualize and grow as a professional.  In the past week I have added over a hundred educators and professionals to my PLN on twitter, which means that now when I have a thought or question I can turn to Twitter and ask things like, Who uses, “tweets are my own and why?” and gain from the knowledge that respondents share.

Here is an excellent TED talk by____ about My Digital Stamp: Erik Qualman at TEDxNashville:


Be Responsible Be safe Be generous Be kind

is it true,

is it necessary,

is it kind. 

YOU be the judge.



4 thoughts on “Digital Duality and the illusion of privacy and ownership

  1. Chris,
    Good points. Here are few follow-up points:
    1) the “tweets my own not my employers” line is, for me at least, not about absolving me of accountability but rather making it clear what I tweet is not as an agent of my employer. More to the point, what I tweet is not endorsed by my employer. I’m well away my employer can hold me responsible for something I tweet, irresponsibility, I just want to make it clear that my feed is not an officially sanctioned (promotional) account of my employer.

    2) the two online identities… I have two Facebook account, one “personal” and one “professional.” I don’t find these difficult to maintain and I two fairly distinctive real lives as well. I don’t spend much time with colleagues outside of work, mostly close friends and family. My Facebook accounts mirror that. Do my worlds intersect? Sure. Just as they do when I run in to a student on the street. But do I spend the majority of my time, in real life, splitting between the two? Yes. For me it’s not a big deal to have two accounts. Do I post anything inappropriate on my “personal” account? No. But I like it as a space to call my own, one where I am surrounded by friends and family, and not colleagues, much like my real life.

    Yes, the digital word is everlasting and easily shared and re-purposed beyond my original intent. But just as I do with my neighborhood, and my home, I try to keep a space separate and apart from work to allow myself time to step away. Just as I have that space in real life I have that space online. Is either perfectly secure and 100% separate from the other? No. But having that filter helps me step away and recharge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s