Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk
Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

None of the scenarios listed below have happened yet, as far as we know:

  • A star college quarterback sends a text message to five friends, bragging about his performance against a rival school. One of the friends forwards it to another set of friends, and one of them sends it to a few other people. The message finds its way to the blogosphere, then to ESPN. Soon football fans around the Internet are questioning the quarterback's character and judgment for "distributing" inflammatory bulletin board material.
  • An angry crank with an axe to grind against a top defensive prospect searches the Internet for dirt on his prey. An ordinary Google search turns up not just public data, but postings from the defender's Twitter and Facebook accounts. The crank establishes an anti-prospect Web site, mixing out-of-context postings with some facts and a sprinkle of innuendo. Maybe he goes a step further, impersonating the player on a phony Twitter account and tweeting vitriol to a confused public. The line between what's real and what's fabricated is blurred by reporters and draftniks, who inadvertently cite some of the false or highly distorted information. The prospect's reputation is tarnished by a cyber-smear campaign. By the time he realizes it, the damage is already done.
  • A team hires an investigator to check out the top prospect in the draft, and the investigator isn't above bending a few laws. In addition to standard background checks, he calls in a few favors with major Internet advertisers. He suddenly has access to the prospect's "clickstream" information, a full record of the athlete's browsing and chatting proclivities. Chat sessions at 3 a.m., just hours before kickoff? The general manager may find that interesting. Perhaps a GPS search of the player's iPhone will provide other revelations ...

They are being watched

NFL prospects have no privacy.

Hundreds of them spent last week at the Scouting Combine, working out in front of NFL Network cameras. Their heights and weights became matters of immediate public record. Sudden weight changes fueled speculation -- good for Sam Bradford, bad for many prospects in years past -- about their work habits and character. Rumors about supposedly private matters, like Wonderlic scores and interview results, quickly reached the interested public.

Every detail of a prospect's background is researched by teams and publicized by the media. The scrutiny goes beyond touchdowns and dropped passes, it continues to arrests, scandals, and brief, long-ago suspensions for "undisclosed team violations." If a player was involved in some non-noteworthy taproom scuffle, we know about it. Type "Jimmy Clausen" into your search engine, and Google helpfully suggests "punch" to steer you toward controversy.

The NFL draft is a uniquely Internet-fueled phenomenon, with thousands of bloggers devoting millions of words to an event with no intrinsic entertainment value. Internet coverage subjects the athletes to another level of privacy invasion. If you don't believe it, ask yourself if you know what any quarterback prospect's girlfriend looks like, how you got that information, and why it's any of your business. The NFL itself is still learning to cope with the advance of technology. For every positive story (Dennis Dixon used a Web site to attract NFL attention), there are many more negative ones (Brian Cushing and David Clowney had their Twitter accounts hacked, revealing photos of Matt Leinart, Kyle Orton, etc., made the rounds in years past).

Players like Cushing, Clowney, Leinart, and Orton may have been embarrassed by Internet violations or indiscretions, but at least they were already employed. Prospects like Clausen are in a netherworld. They are celebrities without the resources to combat privacy violations or cyber-smear campaigns. They are job applicants for whom a change of perception could cost millions of dollars -- the cost of three or four draft slots, plus a lost endorsement or two. And they are college students or recent graduates, immersed in a world of post-adolescent drama preserved by instant, permanent telecommunications. Most of us are lucky that stage of our lives wasn't indelibly preserved.

The friend of my friend is my enemy

The days of walking into a job interview with a new suit and a spell-checked resume are long gone. Today's college graduate cannot expect his or her past to disappear once he or she enters the job market.

Parry Aftab is executive director of WiredSafety.org. Her organization is devoted to improving Internet safety and providing information and education about online privacy and security. Everything from hacking and identity theft to copyright infringement to cyber-stalking falls under the WiredSafery.org umbrella. Browse the topics on their site, and you come away with one conclusion: We give away far too much personal data on the Internet.

"We used to be able to reinvent ourselves," Aftab said in an interview. "So much of our lives are now wide open. If we aren't sharing it, our friends are."

That shared information is finding its way into the hands of employers. Jules Polonetsky is the co-chair and director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington think tank focused on advancing responsible data practices. Polonetsky cited research revealing that 79 percent of hiring managers perform some kind of Internet background check during the employment interview process. Seventy percent of those managers used the results to take adverse action at some point or another. The message is simple: That kegs-and-bikinis picture on MySpace or the angry rant on Twitter can cost you a job.

College students are adapting to the new reality, and high-profile college athletes typically know better than to self-publicize something that could hurt their image. Problems arise as technology makes information more ubiquitous and easier to get.

Take something as simple as a Facebook page. With the proper settings, we can make sure only "friends" see our updates and wall postings (forget for a moment that many of you are among my hundreds of friends, and I probably have never met you). But depending on which networks you belong to -- a college alumni network for instance -- your posts on Twitter or Facebook may now be linked to search engines like Google. Information meant only for friends (acquaintances, readers, fellow writers, former students) could now belong to everyone who performs a simple search. Since most of us are rarely searched for by strangers, that may not seem like a big deal. For someone famous, it's a major problem.

If you are my age or older, what you've read so far may have led you to a simple conclusion: NFL prospects shouldn't use Facebook or Twitter, or at least should never share anything remotely personal on those networks. According to Polonetsky, that's not realistic. "Telling the current generation to stop using this technology is like telling teenagers to stop goofing off with their buddies. They literally have to disconnect. How can we ask anybody to live like that?"

As means of communication have changed, so have a generation's attitudes toward privacy. Public policy hasn't caught up. "The law hasn't developed enough, and the technology isn't nuanced enough," Polonetsky said, to keep pace with the way email, text messaging, and social networking usage have accelerated. It's one thing to keep your own Web site free of scandalous pictures and avoid controversial remarks. It's another never to text a silly joke to a friend, fearing that it may be forwarded along a chain that leads from a small group of acquaintances to Deadspin. Ray Rice learned that lesson in 2008, when what he thought was a private text to Rashard Mendenhall became Steelers bulletin-board fodder.

The Rice-Mendenhall incident is a reminder that the social norms of Internet communication are still being worked out. Telling a younger generation to "be careful" (as those of us in education often do) is becoming meaningless. Polonetsky makes it clear that the line between "private" and "public" is moving. An individual who finds that a private correspondence among 20 friends has circulated nationally does have a legitimate beef.

"It's a huge shock to someone who feels, 'I didn't expect you to read my diary just because it's not locked in a safe,'" Polonetsky said.

Public policy can evolve, but the technology must also adapt. For example, an expiration date on data could keep it from becoming eternally available to anyone with an agenda. After all, a Facebook posting to friends is more like a statement made at cocktail hour, or in front of a classroom, than a published document; many of us are relieved when our cocktail or classroom tirades are forgotten.

"Wouldn't it be good if the tech let us forget the way humankind did for most of our history?" Polonetsky asked.

Even with forgetful software and legal protections, celebrities like NFL players must be prudent. "The more public you are, the more people will attack you, harass you, and provoke you," Aftab said. A rock star or teen princess can absorb or even benefit from scandal. An NFL player or draftee cannot. "Players need to understand that their brand is on the line," Aftab said.

That brand can be worth tens of millions of dollars in contract and endorsement money. Teams and sponsors also have brands to protect, which is why they collect as much data as possible about potential players and endorsers. And gathering huge streams of data, from the vital to the irrelevant to the personal, has never been so easy.

A click too far

There are a lot of people who want access to your Internet search history, and you aren't even famous.

Most of us have some familiarity with Web security. We know we leave "cookies" (whatever they are) when we visit Web sites and that advertisers and others could follow those cookie trails to determine our purchase preferences (and more). We know that our Internet caches are repositories for every site we've searched for months, no matter how puerile or potentially embarrassing. We know the delete button doesn't delete very much.

Even the most tech-savvy of us know only a fraction of the story. On his site, Polonetsky provides a handy diagram displaying where your data goes before you even click a link. The available data on an individual grows with each new gadget. I was unaware, for example, that my iPod Touch knew where I was until I fiddled with its "Maps" application. Sure enough, it dropped a locater pin on tiny Mount Ephraim.

Polonetsky reassured me that Apple only plans to share my location data if it suits some "beneficial purpose." That means Apple won't inform marketers when I travel to New York, which would allow them to bombard me with New York-specific advertisements. According to Polonetsky, Apple's policy is relatively forward-thinking. Other companies might share location data with any number of marketers or "re-targeters" down the line, allowing them to custom-tailor advertising while creating a spooky profile of my travel and purchase habits.

Of course, Apple's policy is stated in the terms of use agreement I clicked when setting up my iTouch, and Facebook and other providers have similar agreements. Even if I had read the agreement, I wouldn't have thought much about location data, as I had no idea the item I purchased even contained a GPS. "Nobody in their sane minds spends time reading those agreements," Polonetsky said, noting that the language of the agreements is confusing even for privacy lawyers.

These Orwellian marketing agencies seem less frightening when we realize that they're only trying to sell us products. Unfortunately, there's more. A company called RapLeaf advertises that it "provides social data about a company's audience." Companies like these allow businesses to collate their databases with social networking data, allowing not just marketers but employers and financial institutions to learn not just about a buyer or applicant, but his friends as well. "The reasoning is that if your friends are deadbeats, you're probably not a good prospect," Polonetsky said. The data is used to tailor credit promotions: Country club members see better offers than those with shadier profiles.

Combine the power of location-specific information with the data collection power of a company like RapLeaf, and you have a tool that an NFL team would covet when assessing a potential free agent or draft pick. Remember Andre Smith's disappearance from the Combine last year? Imagine tracking him via his iPhone. If Michael Vick had a social networking account in 2005, an aggregator company might have found out about his extracurricular interests just by cross-referencing some of his MySpace friends with their credit reports and purchase habits. The Falcons might have saved tens of millions on Vick's contract extension, all for the cost of some privacy invasion.

Companies like RapLeaf get their data by aggregating public information. They don’t use "clickstream" data, like the kind Internet marketers enjoy. That data is only supposed to be collected for marketing and advertising purposes, so future employers won't know how many times you logged on to Football Outsiders (unless you use a workplace computer!). But law enforcement agencies can access the data, and it's conceivable that someone else with power and connections -- an NFL owner, for example -- could pull strings to get a marketer to violate its privacy policy.

Aftab is skeptical that anyone would go that far to get data on a player or draftee, unless they suspected he was involved in some serious illegal activity.

"Some of this stuff is interesting to talk about around the dinner table," she said, "but it isn't really practical."

Legal issues aside, there are hundreds of players leaving millions of bits of information around the Internet, so a would-be cyber-spy would be forced to sift through hundreds of irrelevant emails, tweets, and browsing sessions. A team with the time and workforce available to perform such an investigation wouldn't find it cost-effective. Hours of manpower would yield little more than a half-hour Google session typically reveals.

"It's not the information they are paying for most people should worry about," Aftab said. "It's the information they are getting for free."

Polonetsky is less skeptical.

"It's one thing when casting a wide net, searching millions of records looking for a bad guy," he said. "But if it's a small target, if there's just one player or 10 players, there's a treasure trove, a long file to pull on them."

That said, Polonetsky agrees that players (or anyone else) should be more concerned about readily available data than leaked "clickstream" data, and that a legion of draftniks can be more damaging to a player with something to hide than a Bill Belichick-hired operative. "There's an army of curious detectives out there," he said, with a habit of ferreting out the truth.

Clickstream skullduggery aside, teams can -- and no doubt do -- infiltrate a player's "friends" list on a social network, and they retain the right to perform background and credit checks on players. "Teams would be out of their minds if they didn't find out everything they could," Aftab said. "The background check is more important with an athlete than an executive. There's a question of physical integrity."

Private investigators have been part of sports for decades. Now, they are capable of finding out much more, much more easily -- and that's before they do something extreme and illegal, like searching through our browsing habits for clues.

Fighting reputation with reputation

The cat gets out of the bag. In the case of someone like Lienart, a damaging picture circulates on the Internet. In the cases of Cushing or Clowney, a hacker steals the player's identity and leaves a trail of confusing, embarrassing tweets. Some accuser pleads his or her case to the Internet first and the police a distant second. Whether real, fabricated, or somewhere in between, the allegations or evidence is damaging. For an incoming prospect, it could be crippling. Imagine what a Tila Tequila-Shawne Merriman scandal could do to a medium-range prospect four days before the draft.

What's the player supposed to do about it?

NFL teams have a variety of resources to support players in event of scandal. This year's draftees have agents who can help douse the flames. A collegian with remaining eligibility (and therefore no agent) must turn to his school or his family. Most of these support networks are still a step behind the technology: police reports are their specialty, not Twitter battles.

The NFL's current Twitter policy reflects the league's lagging understanding of the technology. Rules to prevent pregame tweets are reactionary and arbitrary, and while the Texans and Jets reacted quickly to protect Cushing and Clowney, teams have proven to be technologically naïve before the fact (the fake Cushing's Twitter account was allegedly listed on the team's official site).

"The athlete needs to have a professional who knows how to get out in front of it," Aftab said.

Prospects can start by taking the precautions many of us take when we achieve a small measure of public notoriety. They can search for themselves frequently, set up RSS fields for themselves, and establish an official, secure Web site as their primary contact and communication source. By monitoring what's said about him on ine, the prospect can quickly address impersonators, stalkers, or slanderers. If a particular Web site or blog is churning out false or misleading information, an expert like Aftab has the knowledge and connections to stop it.

There are also new technologies that allow individuals to fight fire with fire on the Internet. A product called Reputation Defender helps users to seek and destroy damaging information. When destruction is impossible, Reputation Defender hides the data by increasing the amount of positive or neutral data that reaches the top of a typical search. In other words, by mirroring dozens of benign Mike Tanier sites and perching them atop the Google list, it's possible to bury that embarrassing incident with me and the zebra on page 43 of the search, where only the most zealous investigators will likely find it.

Professor Helen Nissenbaum of New York University created another program called "Track Me Not." The program is perfect for anyone who doesn't want his or her search history tracked and analyzed. It creates thousands of dummy searches, making it impossible to differentiate real searches from fake.

"We are disturbed by the idea that search inquiries are systematically monitored and stored by corporations like AOL, Yahoo!, Google, etc. and may even be available to third parties," reads the Track Me Not Web site. "Because the Web has grown into such a crucial repository of information and our search behaviors profoundly reflect who we are, what we care about, and how we live our lives, there is reason to feel they should be off-limits to arbitrary surveillance."

All of the precautions sound like espionage after a while, and the online landscape changes every few months. The technology is so amazing and invasive, the players and teams so naïve, and the potential misuses of information so numerous, that I am shocked we haven't already witnessed a disaster: A player whose opportunity to play in the NFL is ruined by an out-of-control Internet hoax or a cyber-spying scandal on par with the one currently gripping the Lower Merion School District.

I am part of the problem

Last Wednesday, I updated my Facebook status, stating that I was editing a Walkthrough about Internet privacy. An hour later, someone commented on my status by relating a story about a (non-noteworthy) photo of an NFL player which found its way from someone’s "private" image list onto a fan blog.

I'll bet one or two of you saw that comment, because we are Facebook friends. That means you now know about the incident.

It was a second-hand tale of a minor event, nothing newsworthy at all. But what if the story were slightly sexier? My Friends list contains many sports writers and bloggers. They could pick the story up and pass it along. A step or two later, it could get distorted or embellished, become a full-scale privacy leak or part of a cyber-smear campaign.

I would then be a link in the chain that led to a breech of privacy, of journalistic integrity, or of trust. An unwitting link, but a weak one.

NFL teams, which have professional scouting departments and investigative resources, should be able to differentiate fact from cyber-smear, a stray remark or photo from a character flaw. But those resources only go so far. Information is eventually generalized and summarized, and when it comes time to sort through sixth round prospects, not every loose strand gets picked up. A little made-up scandal won't hurt Jimmy Clausen. Teams will uncover the real truth, and his game tape is too good to be overshadowed by some micro-scandal. But a minor prospect, a guy who is just as good as 50 others, could see his career derailed by a simple Internet mistake. And he doesn't have to be the one who makes it.

It's chilling. And it affects all of us as much as it affects the players.

Time for me to go delete that comment on Facebook now. Hope it is not too late.

Want to keep track of me on Facebook? Join the Walkthrough Readers group. I won't share any of your personal information, because I am honest, respect your privacy, and barely understand how to use a computer.


67 comments, Last at 17 Mar 2010, 10:21am

1 TrackMeNot URL

You have the wrong URL for Track Me Not. The correct one is:


2 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I can't wait for the day when we, as a society, stop caring about the social postings of players who's job will be to play football, not entertain heads of state.

3 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

You messed up the Mendenhall - Ray Rice story, it was the other way around (with R.Lewis breaking Mendenhall collarbone) IIRC.

Not a fan of this Walkthrough at all to tell the truth. Just a whole piece about internet privacy, remotely connected to the NFL, that I've read 100 times already.

4 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I just find it funny that NFL teams can invest millions in state of the art equipment for scouting, but a can't spend a comparative pittance to hire a new media consultant for their players. I mean, how hard would it be to have some guy in the organization to help the players manage their personal websites, twitter feeds, Facebook pages, etc.? It's a shame, really.

5 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

But, as Mike touches on, the players' personal websites, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages are now aspects of their social lives. While having someone give a seminar or class on the best way to use these tools, having someone actually managing these things for the players would be like having someone go out to bars with players or go on dates with the players; I can't see any player agreeing to those things, can you?

37 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Um, teams do have people whose job includes going out to bars with players and trying not to let them get into too much trouble - or at least any sort of trouble which is likely to become public - even acting as enablers if the trade-off is keeping the bad behaviour behind closed doors. Someone has to vet the guests for the coke-and-hookers parties . . .

6 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

That Clausen thing gave me an idea--I wonder what would happen if I typed "Tim Tebow gay" into Google a few hundred times. Maybe I've been appointed by some mysterious force to save the Jaguars...

7 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I liked where this Walkthrough was going but in the end it was all hat and no cowboy with respect to privacy issues. Not much substance and mostly conjecture.

I liked one of the previous poster's comments though - I wonder if there will be an informative session on social networking technology and its possible effects at the rookie symposium any time soon. Training kids on what is "good content" might make for a useful session. Take heed, Marty B . . .

8 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Facebook + Twitter = a forum for people who have nothing important to say, but insist on it anyway.

If you intend to ever apply for some job or position where you will be vetted extensively, just don't have any sort of social network presence outside of LinkedIn.

10 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

That's kind of true, but the problem is that Facebook and Twitter have become standard parts of the social lives of 25-and-under people.

Seriously advising young people to not have any ties to them is similar to advising young people to not send text messages or emails.

I suppose that's fine if finding a job is that much more important to an individual than having a social life, but I'd wager that's not the case for most professional athletes.

19 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

People were able to maintain social connections prior to Facebook/Myspace. I know more and more people that are jumping off these social networks due to privacy concerns and general lack of utility. Plus, now that the boomer generation is getting in on it, it is officially lame. ;-)

If your social life > finding a job, then your priorities are backwards. The former follows the latter when you're starting out in life.

Its not Facebook + Twitter that are the problem - this obsession with self-broadcasting every detail about a person is symptomatic of something wrong with whatever they are calling this post-X generation that I belong to.

30 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

"People were able to maintain social connections prior to Facebook/Myspace."

True, but that doesn't mean Facebook isn't a major part of social life today.

"If your social life > finding a job, then your priorities are backwards."

You sure about that? And I'm not saying your social life should dominate your career, just that your career shouldn't dominate your social life. In fact, neither aspect should cause the other to take a back seat.

44 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I'm positive about that. Note I'm talking about "finding a job" exclusively. That should take precedent. I'm not talking about holding a job and balancing your career with your social life.

We're talking about kids who attend college as a four-year audition for the big leagues. My advise is 1) don't be stupid, and 2) if you are stupid, don't broadcast it.

47 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

To each his own, I guess. Personally, the biggest impact college had on me was to teach me how to interact with people in the real world; that is, it's primary impact was a social one.

And I spent the last year of college focused on finding a job; I took one in a city I had no intention of staying in long-term, and it most definitely affected me socially. If I could go back in time, I would have held out for a job that better fit my personal and social plans moving forward. Focusing on a job first set my life back a few years.

38 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Seriously, what proportion of 16 year olds are even thinking about finding a job (other than temporary holiday work in Starbucks or wherever for pocket money)? Heck, when I was a first and second year undergraduate, only a tiny proportion of my friends had any clear idea about their future career path or were seriously thinking about maximising their employment prospects - and this a bunch of mostly middle and upper middle class kids at a leading university. It's just not realistic to expect most people that age to behave in a terribly responsible manner, and it's not very feasible for them to prevent that behaviour becoming public, even years down the line. OK, suppose you don't sign up for Facebook. How are you going to prevent other people tagging you in photos there? You think a PI can't find out who your friends are and check their accounts for pictures of you?

27 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

It does trend older, but there are plenty of younger people on there (when's the last time Justin Beiber wasn't a trending topic?). But it's not used as a social tool nearly as much as just following/bothering famous people and distributing/receiving links and self-promotion.

67 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I think your advice relies largely on the type of position and what you choose to post on those social networking sites. I am an attorney with a public relations background, and have friends in several sectors (finance, PR, etc.). Most if not all of us have Facebook and Twitter pages, and (to my knowledge) our social networking presence has not had a negative impact on their careers.

While it's always safer not to do anything at all, I don't think that people need to avoid social networking completely. You just have to be smart about it.

As a sidenote...I know the article (and most of the discussion) has been focused on the impact of social networking on one's career, but it has an impact in the academic world as well. I know of at least a handful of grad schools and law schools that do internet searches for prospective applicants. If you have questionable Facebook/MySpace/Twitter pages, they can have a negative impact on your application.

9 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

So instead of a funny, concise article on football, we get page upon page of rambling about a field you have no professional expertise in?

I'll still read the next walkthrough, of course, because they've been so good for so long. But this was a huge waste of bytes.

12 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Facebook is a pointless and strange way to get information about people you probably don't really care about. So you managed to take a photograph of yourself on holiday, that needs to go on facebook so that poeple who already know what you look like can see what you look like stood in front of something they aren't going to recognise because they weren't on the bloody holiday. And it is never one picture it is a dozen all of the same idiot (or idiots) blocking the view of the thing they went to see and take pictures of.

rant over.

14 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Your rant seems to be more against taking photos than against Facebook.

What I've gathered is that you see no point in ever taking a picture of yourself or friends in front of a landmark (or in general, ever taking a picture of yourself or friends at all?), then showing said picture to people. Facebook is a just a medium to show others your photos, no different from an email containing an attachment, a website dedicated to your photos, or a physical photo album of developed photos.

25 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

My problem is that without facebook these pictures would never be put in front of me with a little pointless comment. I would never seek these pictures out but they appear on my 'wall'. My email even starts telling me about these entirely pointless activities as though simply putting them on a social networking site validates them.

People used to complain when someone wanted to show them a slideshow of their holiday pictures now it is almost expected that everyone should want to take pictures and display them to others and when they do so you shouldn't try to run for the hills. It isn't as though the quality of the pictures has improved, so why is it now acceptable.

13 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I read an article late last year about a young woman who was training to be a teacher. In the final semester of her final year she got called into the college head's office and dismissed from the course. There were pictures of her on Facebook at a party. In one of them she was drinking a fluid and it *might* have been alcohol. It was deemed inappropriate that she should be allowed to become a teacher ...

15 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

A sad comment on our society.

To be fair, she should have done the smart thing: deactivate her Facebook account or change her name, until she gets a job. While some interviewers may be thick enough to reject you for a position based on a facet of your life that has nothing to do with them, it's on you to function in this society. This is what most people I know do when they are looking for a job.

Of course, this also raises the question of whether you'd actually want to work in such a draconian environment, but I won't touch that. I'm glad my employer doesn't particularly care how I spend my weekends, so long as I don't do anything that effects the company negatively.

16 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

This was while she was still at college ... they wouldn't let her complete the course to graduate as a teacher. 3+ years wasted. I wish I could find the link, I think it was in the UK broadsheets just before Christmas.

In Britain we have the Data Protection Act to provide some measure of privacy. One of the principles is that you must acquire information "fairly and lawfully" and then only for the purposes that you acquired it. It could be argued that she didn't put her information on Facebook for job application purposes and it's not a fair use of the information even though it was out in the open.

34 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

The standard advice for teachers is to never record or allow yourself to be caught doing anything that your students are too young for. Yes, it's completely asinine, but recent history should teach that parents are completely and wholly irrational about people who care for their children.

39 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Damn - either things have changed a lot in the last decade or they're a lot more relaxed on this side of the pond. When I was at school (ie high school age, not university) there was what you might call a gentlemen's understanding between pupils and teachers regarding which of the two nearest pubs each group drank at during lunch break to avoid inconvenient encounters. Even at younger ages, we knew which pubs the staff frequented, and why Mr. Duff was a much better (and less smelly) teacher first period than last. I think it's more likely that parents would have thought a teacher odd if they didn't drink.

That said, the newly graduated maths teacher who used to go out clubbing with the Upper Sixth was probably taking things a bit far . . .

56 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Yes things are quite different in America. I think a lot of has to do with a 21 drinking age. We still get most of our morals from uptight puritans. Remember this a country that attempted prohibition in the 20th century and still has "dry" counties.

61 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Yeah - I was truly staggered when I found out (from an article on this site, I believe) about the continued existence of dry counties. It's easy to forget that outside of the interwebs the neoliberal/minarchist/moderate libertarian/social liberal-fiscal conservative/whatever-you-want-to-call-it region of the political map that I inhabit is a sparsely populated one indeed. Also, I've been dry myself for a fortnight and counting, in the interests of getting into shape (as in, a different shape - smaller, for example) and I freaking hate it. God, sobriety is boring. People choose this? Voluntarily? For life?

28 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

With a Referee?

Or the animal?

Not sure which is more disturbing.

I guess it depends on whether or not they share a bale of hay afterwards....

And if you're a high school student of his reading this, a relative, or potential future employer, I apologize. He is awesome and you are lucky and I am just a jerk making a lame joke.

Actually, adding a lame joke onto another. But you get the idea.

And if you are my boss reading this, STOP WASTING YOUR TIME!! GO OUT AND DRUM UP SOME BUSINESS!!

(that should cover all bases)

32 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

The NFL draft is a uniquely Internet-fueled phenomenon, with thousands of bloggers devoting millions of words to an event with no intrinsic entertainment value.

Maybe for fans, but the stuff Mike talks about in the piece is an infinitesimal piece of the process for teams. Scouting, game film, the combine, workouts, and interviews all come first. Even if an organization has interns looking through Google to find "useful" dirt on a prospect, they're combing through a lot of standard football coverage (including fan rants) to get there. And, if they do find something, a good organization will have the contacts with people around the college program to confirm that the kid is or isn't a likely problem. The larger societal problem of stuff on the internet, like tattoos, persisting long after someone thought it was a good idea is something we'll have to deal with. But the draft is still about football more than random net posts.

33 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

author should edit this story. this is disparaging to the internet advertising companies. it is not you who they track but the ip address of the computer your on. what u decide to put on facebook is an entirely separate issue. lastly, dont be a privacy geek/p***SY and cover the nfl, lame

35 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Yes, author. You should never ever disparage internet advertisers. They are lovely, sensitive people, with a fetish for pop-ups and seizure-inducing messages that flash YOU ARE THE LUCKY WINNER!!! and single Catholic women gazing through cyberspace. Stick to diagramming waggles for next time.

55 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I almost made this same point earlier, a lot of comments from ms internet privacy guru are misleading at best. You can track an ip address, but that tells you the machine and not the person. Also, it is the provider (typically Google for most ads) who can see the ip address, not the advertiser. Fortunately those annoying pop ups generally don't have any idea of who I am...

IP addresses are incredibly unreliable as well, and many are dropping use of them in research and marketing. For example, if you are an AOL user (why does anyone still use AOL???) your ip will most likely show you as being from Virginia since that's where all of their servers run through.

In other words, short of doing something really devious like breaking into a prospects house and stealing their laptop, there isn't really a feasible way for a team to see their "clickstream" (which is also a POS term as it refers to your navigation through a single site and not across the whole interwebs...). Facebook and twitter are different issues, but don't count on a team dropping some prospect off their boards because they discovered he has too many visits to hotmale dot com or something like that.

There. That's my nerd rant for the day.

63 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

Yeah, there are a number of other inaccuracies and misleading statements in this article ... you don't "leave" cookies, but accept them; advertisers can't tell much about your shopping habits from cookies; there really isn't squat to learn from your cache itself, and even your history is only helpful to someone who happens to be sitting at your computer ...

An "expiration date on data", well, a lot of companies do maintain something similar to that when they collect data on you (depending on what they collect and what, if any, laws relate to that collection and possession), but that's not really going to address what the concerns seem to be here. If he's talking about an "expiration date" for something posted to the internet, that's not how it works. Sure, you can have dynamic content that expires after a certain point in time, but all that does is make it no longer available from its original source. Anyone who's already got a copy of that information isn't going to be affected by any kind of expiration.

Heck, I don't even get his point about his iPod Touch. When I use Maps on mine, it brings up a nice little popup: "Maps would like to use your current location."

I suppose I agree with a tiny bit of the premise, but I have to agree with other comments in that if you're going to have a helpful article, it needs to be written by someone who has a good understanding of the principles on which it's based. Mike seems to be a nice guy and usually writes good stuff, but his understanding of privacy and the interwebs seems to be very limited.

57 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

"Telling the current generation to stop using this technology is like telling teenagers to stop goofing off with their buddies. They literally have to disconnect. How can we ask anybody to live like that?"

Erm...like humans have for the past 10,000 years you mean? It's as if people think it's amazing that civilization survived without Twitter when in fact our modern world probably wouldn't exist right now if Facebook had always been around. The pioneers would have been too busy maintaining their FarmVilles to settle the west.

I confess I don't see any problem whatsoever with using what people freely put up on their webpages against them. They put up updates and photos to express who they are and then are shocked when employers don't want anything to do with who they are? Amazing.

And in any case I seriously doubt that prospective employers are making decisions solely on what is on a Facebook page. I expect that it's sort of like the odd misdemeanor or something else on a person's record. Something to check out but if there are reasonable explanations (such as I was young and in college) not a deal breaker. It's not as if employers weren't also young and in college at one time too, you know.

59 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

There's a guy I'd rate as a 4th-5th rnd pick where just the opposite has occured. At age 16 he had sex with his 15 yr old sister, and has to register as a sex offender. Now since this incident this guy has said and done all the right things, and he's not hiding or denying what occured, but as far as internet chatter goes....

62 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

As my old Latin teacher used to say, vice is nice but incest is best.

Ok, so another potential trans-Atlantic culture gap: is he going to be rinsed for this by opposition fans throughout every NFL game he ever plays? Because if he was an English soccer player, he would be. I have no idea how long the "John Terry, are you my dad?" chants are going to go on, but the kerfuffle over his relationship with a former team-mate's then-girlfriend shows no sign of abating and has clearly affected his game - and this a guy who's captained his club and country, won a bunch of silverware, been Premier League player of the season, twice European defender of the year and five times named in the FifPro World XI. Graeme Le Saux read the Guardian (a relatively up-market left wing newspaper) and had A-levels, for which his reward was week-in and week-out chants of "Le Saux takes it up the arse". Robbie Fowler never really shook off the coke thing, but at least the snorting the goal-line celebration was a decent come-back. Mark Bosnich's Nazi salute to the fans, on the other hand . . . understandable in the circumstances, perhaps, but not so smart (though of course he was the one who actually ultimately snorted his way out of the game).

Anyway, my point is, does it not seem likely that Washington, whether he can in principle play or not, will receive so much flak over this as to be totally unable to concentrate on the game? I wouldn't draft him if I thought he was the second coming of Anthony Munoz.

64 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I think this goes back to the discussion we've had before about American fans', er, lack of coordination. I'm sure that Ray Lewis has been called a murderer at every road game he's played since his legal troubles, but never by a large portion of the crowd chanting comprehensibly.

65 Re: Walkthrough: Click at Your Own Risk

I guess that makes sense. And football doesn't allow the kind of periods of quiet inactivity and player isolation that can be found in a cricket (or baseball?) outfield which allow for the likes of "Oi, Tufnell, can I borrow your brain? I'm building an idiot." Still, plenty of room for opposing DEs to make with, say, "Can I get your sister's number, man? Seriously, sloppy seconds are ok by me. I hear you've got a tiny **** anyway, so really it's no biggie. So to speak. Say, is she as good in the sack as your mom? Because she was just freakin' great last night."