Personal information disclosure guidelines? April 5, 2004 11:17 PM   Subscribe

While I'm guessing this has been discussed before, I feel it might be good to go over again, given the n00bs -- like me. Are there any policies/guidelines/unspoken rules regarding the inclusion of personal information, and specifically the details of less than legal or moral behavior, in threads, comments, and AskMe answers? [more inside]
posted by ChasFile to Etiquette/Policy at 11:17 PM (11 comments total)

The inspiration for this post came from this reply to this answer I gave to this AskMe question, in which I was advised to be a bit more circumspect about relating my own criminal behavior in such a public, popular, and permanent forum. That made alot of sense to me, and I chalked it up as a newbie mistake and moved on. Imagine my surprise upon reading this thread on the blue two days later, in which many mefites describe their own experiences with drugs quite candidly. Thoughts?

[P.S. At the risk of derailing, should this have been posted to AskMe, since I'm asking a question? My first post.]

posted by ChasFile at 11:19 PM on April 5, 2004

Over the years, I have found that Jimmy Carter can do a great job of talking you down. Give him a chance. And steel yourself for a lot of Allman Brothers.
posted by trondant at 11:29 PM on April 5, 2004

Chas, I don't have an answer for your crime question, but no, it should not have been posted to askme. Posting here was the right place for it.
posted by dobbs at 11:31 PM on April 5, 2004

use your judgement, but if your user account here is mapped to your name, don't be surprised when you don't get that job you wanted in a year from now because they googled around for you. Also, I don't like having problems on my hands, so discussion of illegal stuff in ask mefi is kind of frowned upon.

Also, remember metatalk is built for all metafilter universe related things, so all questions about it should be here, not on ask mefi
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:31 PM on April 5, 2004

I think that how much or how little one discusses is entirely a matter of personal choice, and as in real life, some people are more cautious than others. Most people are pretty aware that the Internet is simultaneously anonymous and anything but, but most things you say on the Internet are there forever, or at least for a long time, and I think that it's wise to remember these things when posting (NOT that I think this means we shouldn't discuss experiences, but just that we should do so from an educated standpoint). Personally, I think that if anyone really wants to find stuff out about you, they probably can, and I don't really know how incriminating it actually is in any real-world sense to say "woo, I dropped some 'cid back in the hippy days, man", since people lie all the time, and in the extremely remote chance that anyone ever asked you about it, you could always explain that you were lying, or talking about someone else, or channeling Jerry Garcia or something, there's no proof that you did it, and talking about it is not a crime anyway, as far as I know (I don't think I've ever heard of anyone being prosecuted for claiming to have taken illegal drugs). It's wise to keep in mind that if you ever intend to look for work in security-sensitive areas, things you say in public can come back to haunt you, but as a general rule I personally think that almost everything we say online has strong intrinsic plausible deniability, and I very much doubt that it's actually dangerous to discuss such things for most people.
posted by biscotti at 11:32 PM on April 5, 2004

1) Here is as good a place as any (for this question) to ask.
2) It's not so much a question of etiquette so much as it is how comfortable you feel with the possibility of a potential employer or "the man" digging up your post

...and anyways unless you're fessing up to dealing, you've gotta figure the statute of limitations is comparatively short for possession of personal consumption quantities and/or being under the influence/intoxicated.
posted by juv3nal at 11:34 PM on April 5, 2004

Suggestion to user #1: to save an awful lot of etiquette threads, why not put a link in the top nav bar that goes to a page explaining all the "rules" - I know you'll say there are no fixed "rules" but then when someone gets called out, "rules" get made. Then they get broken again. Then someone gets called out again. It gets tedious. If there was an obvious place where rules were set, we could discuss actual things other than MeFi etiquette. When someone breaks the "rules", somebody kindly makes a comment with a link to the "rules" - game over. I just think a lot of time is wasted on nothing in MetaTalk.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:47 AM on April 6, 2004

it's pretty difficult to stay anonymous on the 'net if you post any volume. so you need to be aware that what you say can be used "against" you later, with people completely unaware of the context (there's a prime example elsewhere on meta at the moment, imho).

on the other hand, people should also be aware that everyone sometimes writes and say stupid things - there should be a certain amount off slack granted in reading stuff. unfortunately that attitude requires some experience.

in my opinion, it's best to simply be yourself, as much as possible. but then i don't do many illegal things.

i'm more worried about matt's comment. i understand completely that he doesn't want legal trouble, but by simply saying so it seems to me that he's putting significant pressure on people to self-censor when it's not clear that there is any great risk of him being bothered (maybe i'm wrong about that?). i think this is a "bad thing" because laws change to reflect changes in the common consensus; common consensus changes because people share and discuss new ideas; mefi has something of a reputation for being open to intelligent discussion and questioning of the status quo. so mefi is the kind of forum where informed debate might make a small difference.

so i'd say don't be a jerk - discuss drug use responsibly, for example. don't glorify it or make gratuitous reference to it, but present your own experience in a measured way if you want to do so. such reasonable discussion is less likely to have people breathing down matt's neck without closing up the topic completely (i haven't read the threads in question, so i'm not making any call about whether they are reasonable or not).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:55 AM on April 6, 2004

As per policy of another message board, don't discuss current or future illegal activity.
posted by Gyan at 7:24 AM on April 6, 2004

ChasFile, I haven't read the thread in the blue, but my guess fwiw is that you got the warning for your own protection because someone recognized you as new to the site, whereas most of the people posting in the blue thread were old timers who know what they're getting into.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:48 AM on April 6, 2004

And also, some of us oldtimers figure we'll never get hired anyway, so there is no risk!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2004

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