Don’t say anything online that…

…you wouldn’t be willing to see printed in the New York Times.

Isn’t that the old saying? The warning about blogs, lists, email, whatever–that once you’ve put it out there, “out there” can have mysterious dimensions now and, possibly, “forever”?

Is there some reason this warning shouldn’t apply to (ahem) public tweets?

I wouldn’t think so. Although I’m not currently a Twitter user, you don’t have to be registered to read the terms of service–which say, quite clearly, that any public tweets are, you know, public–and may not only be shared with anybody, but may be distributed by Twitter to third parties.

Such as the Library of Congress.

Sure, the announcement (oh, go look it up, if you don’t already know) took me a bit by surprise. And I had a vaguely grumpy reaction, namely, isn’t it interesting that what I’d think of as the most ephemeral of “gray literature”–tweets–now seem more likely to be digitally preserved than more substantial gray literature such as blogs?

Which isn’t saying a thing negative about the LoC/Twitter announcement. Saying “gee, wouldn’t B be nice?” doesn’t invalidate A.

I’m more than a little surprised to see people saying this is somehow an invasion of privacy or of their rights. I don’t see that it’s either.

And anyone who knows me at all knows that this isn’t a “who cares about privacy?” response. Ask me about the advisability of making it easy for library patrons to allow or encourage the library to retain their circulation records: I’m dead against that, because I don’t believe librarians understand the dangers well enough to make them clear to patrons–and that may stem from being at the Doe Library when it was visited by the FBI as part of their ’70s library project. I believe in confidentiality and privacy (and don’t, for a minute, buy the “oh, well, it’s compromised in 25 different ways, so who cares about the rest?” line that comes out as “You have no privacy. Get over it.”).

But, um, non-private feeds on Twitter? Searchable through several tools, available on Google and Bing, copied hither and yon? With a six-month embargo before LoC gets them? Somehow, I can’t get exercised about this being a Major Invasion of User Privacy–or even a minor one.

Could this be a generational thing? Did Emom’s Warning (the title and opening of this post) somehow disappear along the way? Do Twitterers somehow believe that, you know, nobody can really read what they’re writing–or that, at worst, it disappears after a few minutes?

[No, I’m not going to use some idiot line like “Does tweeting make you dumber?” I know too many intelligent, thoughtful, deep people who use Twitter to believe that nonsense. Of course, so far I haven’t seen any of those particular people getting into a frenzy about the implications of this LoC twarchive, or whatever you want to call it.]


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