clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Everything you say and do is public: five rules for living with the internet

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Yesterday hackers made good on a threat, publishing the data belonging to over 30 million accounts from adultery dating website Ashley Madison. The impact this breach could have on millions of marriages — not just of celebrities and politicians but people typically out of the public spotlight — could be historical. While the implications of a data breach like this have been analyzed in the past, the lessons have been largely ignored.

Take this moment to consider the five laws of your life online. Like laws of the state, whether or not you choose to learn these laws is irrelevant, as you will be tried by them regardless.

1.
Assume everything you do and say will be made public.

2.
Do not be seduced by privacy settings and passwords, which are temporary illusions that distract from the reality of the previous point.

3.
Understand that context and data are often one and the same. When you enter information on the internet, assume that you include the who (you), the what (the data), the when (the time of data input), the where (the site on which the data is being placed), the how (the device on which you input the data), and the why (the purpose of the site).

4.
Believe that all of your credit card transactions are being kept in a colossal, searchable ledger that one day will be made available for all to study.

5.
Believe that data does not disappear when you delete it.

Everything goes mainstream eventually. Soon you'll be able to say you were paranoid before it was cool. Take solace in knowing everyone may now join the ranks of celebrities, who have lived for decades in constant fear of the infringement of their privacy. Now, we will all be celebrities, and our gossip-worthy dramas will be of our own doing, should we not consider our actions — in the real world and online — have repercussions.

Subscribe to What's Tech? on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech? stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.