How many times do we have to be told!? When you write an email or send a text message (or photo) it lives on in cyberspace and could easily come back to haunt you in a big, bad way.
I know that texting on your own cell phone or sitting at your personal computer, writing down your thoughts, then hitting the "send" button may feel like a private activity but it's actually one of the most public activities you can do. Once your communication hits the digital super-highway it is full speed ahead into immortality.
This lesson was shoved in our face again this week with yet another disgorgement of classified U.S. documents at the internet site WikiLeaks. It began back in April when WikiLeaks' leader, 39 year old Australian Julian Assange, began a campaign to embarrass "the U.S. regime" by posting secret military video and diplomatic memos designed to show how wickedly America has conducted its War on Terror.
It's believed that a troubled 22-year-old U.S. Army Private named Bradley Manning was the source of much of the leaked information. Manning was an intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq who reportedly copied hundreds of thousands of classified items onto computer discs and then slipped them to WikiLeaks. Exactly why he had such unfettered access and why he felt compelled to reveal U.S. secrets will surely come up at his trial on charges of mishandling classified information and misuse of government computers. I believe Manning should be charged with treason.
So, if the government can't keep computer messages safe what chance do we have with our own personal or business communications? The short answer is: not much. But there's a new service called TigerText which offers important control over what we send out via the internet.
Jeffery Evans, CEO of TigerText, says his is a breakthrough service that gives the sender of a message the peace of mind knowing it cannot be copied or forwarded to another. And with TigerText's network you'll be able to designate a life expectancy to each text you send. Like the old "Mission Impossible" TV show each communiqué will self destruct after a certain period of time - from one minute after it is opened to several days later, whatever time frame you choose. The text can never be retrieved - not even by court order - because it will no longer exist on TigerText's server.
This is important stuff because traditional e-mail is quickly being replaced by the faster mobile phone texting. According to an industry estimate Americans send some 6 billion text messages each day, teens average 3,339 texts per month! 740 billion text messages were sent in the first half of this year. Because they are often written quickly, flippantly, in the heat of the moment or at a crucial time during a legal, labor or business negotiation they are even more susceptible to being used nefariously.
There are countless examples of texts being used against the author in court including those involving angry spouses arguing over divorce or child custody. A Texas bank teller was accused of texting a robber ahead of time to coordinate the crime and Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was caught up in perjury charges after denying an affair with a staffer and being confronted with a multitude of steamy texts he'd written to her.
TigerText's Evans says Hollywood celebrities and top tier professional athletes - ever mindful of the paparazzo's relentless efforts to tap into their private communications - have signed up for his new service. They're thrilled that their communications can't be sent on to others and within a minute of a recipient opening their message it disappears. If only Tiger Woods had known about TigerText he might have avoided the sex-captured-on-text scandal with his multiple girlfriends.
Parents are discovering they can establish what is, in effect, a private texting network for their family which gives them the ability to monitor everything that flows in and out of their child's account. "With TigerText they can stop cyber bullying in its tracks," Evans told me.
Julian Assange vows that his next target will be big business. He plans for WikiLeaks to reveal all sorts of proprietary business secrets in the months ahead. His supporters have attacked American credit card companies for refusing to do business with WikiLeaks. Last week Bank of America stock tumbled on fears that WikiLeaks was about to reveal its sub-prime housing loan practices and possibly incriminate BofA in a fraud scheme.
The potential monetary damage that could be done by divulging clandestine corporate communications is mindboggling. That's why big business has also turned to TigerText for help to keep their maneuvers permanently private with no pesky paper or digital trail to worry about.
As technology developments bring us new ways to protect our communications it also brings new ways for the mischief-minded and the criminal to take advantage of us. We can sign up for TigerText and any other new system that comes along but in the end the best protection is within. If you wouldn't want an outsider to read your words -- or a court of law to use them against you -- for goodness sakes don't write them down in the first place!
Diane Dimond can be reached through her website: www.DianeDimond.com. Her latest book is "Cirque Du Salahi" available on Amazon.com.