A recent comment about Facebook's providing facial recognition so users can automatically "tag" their friends in photos brought a response from someone after I commented that I wasn't worried so much about the privacy issue -- I just found it a pain that got in the way of posting photos. She was more concerned about friends who "tag" a photo that has your image and post it on the web without telling you.

It was Scott McNealy, the founder of Sun Microsystems who was quoted in 1999 as saying, "You have no privacy. Get over it." And the phenomenon and the attitude have relevance for consumers and business people. Anything you post on the web, can and will be used in ways you didn't intend and probably don't know about. And who knows what other people are posting about you?


Those Facebook users who provide access to more than a handful of people probably can be said to have no expectation of privacy, to use a phrase I've seen bandied about on TV cop shows. Anything you share with 50 people isn't really private.

Companies that give anyone the ability to "like" their page have even less protection. I'm not a lawyer, but the words "fair game" strike me as likely to apply. If someone posts your image for commercial gain without your permission, that's still actionable. Within the area of defamation, you can't just say anything you want about anyone. Doing something about it may make you feel good but is likely to be a distraction and costly. And if you sue, court cases rebroadcast what was said about you, even if you win.

The problem with the web is that it's so hard to find out what is being said. I've seen a promotion for a product called ReputationDefender which promises fast removal of negative posts. These would include those falling into the category, among others.

Whatever the results, people need to monitor what is being said about them and how they are being portrayed with greater vigilance than ever. Getting something down about negative exposure is another thing. The best offense is probably a stellar reputation and the second-best is a thicker skin.

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