Thinking before you speak

The recent release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks has caused many to stop and think – which is always a good thing in my opinion. Of the many comments I’ve seen on this subject, one by Jeff Atwood seems to be the most relevant:

Be it for a personal vendetta, political reasons, or perhaps just the love of chaos; there is always somebody that would love to take your secrets & thoughtless words and expose them to the world. Even with the best security systems that the US Government could build, one person that wanted it all exposed was able to leak hundreds of thousands of documents before exposing himself and ending his crusade.

We should all be taking at least some precautions to protect our private communications, ensuring we use SSL wherever possible, avoiding unencrypted wireless networks, encrypting sensitive data and the like. By making a few smart decisions our secrets are a little safer, but there’s always the risk that there will be an insider ready and waiting. Anytime there is _interesting _communication, there will be people who want to see it exposed.

In my current position, I tend to see a lot of dirty laundry go through my inbox – nothing illegal, but some things that could certainly be embarrassing. At times I’m amazed that people would type some of the things that they do, both our clients and internally. If they had been a little more careful about what they said, nobody would ever care; but as it stands, if publicly released they could lead to a real black-eye on somebody’s reputation.

To minimize exposure to these risks, words should be carefully chosen and the impact of public disclosure always considered.

Obviously though, there are times that the subject is sensitive and that is simply unavoidable. All one can do is take all the reasonable precautions and carefully consider the impact of their words, should they be exposed to the rest of the world.