Weinergate: Five lessons in stupidity

The Anthony Weiner TwitPic case proves once again that the worst privacy wounds are usually self inflicted. Here's how you can avoid making the same stupid mistakes.

So it turns out a certain prominent member of Congress has indeed been shuttling pictures of his somewhat less prominent member across the InterWebs. Who knew?

First, I want to correct an error from my post last week, Anatomy of a Privacy Nightmare. I was obviously wrong when I wrote that the posting of crotch shots across Twitter was probably just a political attack by Anthony Weiner's opponents. Frankly, I didn't think he could be that stupid. Guess I was wrong there, too.

However, I still stand by that post's larger points: An innocent young woman's personal privacy was abused through no fault of her own, and any attempt to “scrub” information from the Internet is like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Once enough of it is out there, there’s really no going back.

[ See also: Beware of Skype voice spam.]

The moral here, as always: Give more thought to what you put out there on the InterWebs before you put it out there (and I'm talking especially to you, Congressman).

As political sex scandals go, I think Weinergate is still not in the same league with, say, soliciting sex in airport bathrooms, or seducing underage Congressional pages, or hiring prostitutes, or knocking up your housekeeper and keeping the love child a secret for a decade, or half a dozen other recent scandals that come to mind. What it is, though, is incredibly, unbelievably, astronomically stupid.

You want to take junk shots and butter them across the InterWebs? I don't have a problem with that, provided the recipient is also a consenting adult who really wants to see how happy Mr. Happy can be. Knock yourself out.

But if you're a publicly elected official who wants to remain a publicly elected official, you might want to think about maybe taking a few precautions. Like:

1. Don't send them from your own Twitter account, nimrod.

It's quite easy to create a dummy Twitter account where your real identity is almost impossible for most people to detect. All it requires is an email address. It’s not even a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.

2. Use a dummy email address to set it up, dummy.

For example: TheRealAnthonyWeiner@gmail.com is probably not the best idea. Try WeinerSchnitzel@hotmail.com instead. Ping me if you need help with this, TW.

3. Mask your IP address, fool.

If you are likely to be the target of a criminal or otherwise hostile investigation, you probably want to use a proxy IP or anonymizer service like Tor before you go spraying pictures of your Johnson around the Webbernets. The Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC) publishes a long list of anonymizers and other privacy tools – most of them free for the download.

4. Choose your recipients carefully, Einstein.

Which is another way of saying, only send this stuff to people who really want to see it. Randomly shooting out crotch close-ups to comely coeds is not the smartest e-marketing strategy.

Weiner likely got ratted out to Breitbart to someone who either a) was deeply offended, b) saw dollar signs in the opportunity to hang Weiner out to dry, or c) both.

5. Don’t be stupid, stupid.

Don't take other shots wearing the same clothes (or lack thereof) where you're sitting there smiling at the camera like an idiot. Ever heard of Photoshop? Or plausible deniability? If you don't want to lose face, then lose the face.

Finally: The next time you want to send somebody a “package”? Do us all a favor and use FedEx.

TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan has vowed to stop sending snapshots of body parts across the InterWebs, and thinks you should too. Visit his eHumor site eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.

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