Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sex and Premature Dissemination

I was riding public transit recently and seated across from me was a lady in her mid 30s, impeccably dressed with what appeared to be painful abrasions on her knees.

While it was definitely none of my business to ask how she had acquired them, a lady sitting next to her happened to notice them and asked what had happened.

In a hushed voice (we all know how “hushed” a voice we can use on a bus, right?), the lady with the scabbed knees went into great detail about Ron ███████, apparently a successful attorney in the city of ███████, and his insatiable but delightful prowess in certain areas.

While Mr. ███████ may be an awesome lover, his reputation is being destroyed by this woman who happily describes many things about him that the rest of us shouldn’t know.  He should either find a more intelligent woman to hang out with or buy his women carpenter’s knee pads to prevent curious passengers on public transit from instigating dialog.

Information is a fascinating thing, being a key component to creating success or catastrophic failure depending on how it is used.

Too much information can make some people paranoid while empowering others to create powerful results.  Too little can allow some people to live a life of ignorant bliss while driving others to rearrange their Life priorities in order to satisfy some craving or need.

As we immerse ourselves in the age of mobility, preferring to be out-and-about instead of being confined to an office, many are forgetting that such mobility comes with new rules regarding who is around us when we are discussing private matters and who is in a position to obtain and use the information we believe to be private.

I’ve watched businessmen in coffee shops vehemently complain about how Facebook’s privacy policy is way too lenient and then go into amazing levels of detail about an imminent court case against a specific person while stressing the importance of not telling anyone because they don’t want the potential defendant in the case to be prepared.  Meanwhile, people like me, who could be someone closely related to their target, sits at the table next to them and hears the entire conversation.

I’ve overheard lawyers explaining loopholes to DUI drivers who had killed others in accidents, accountants showing clients how to hide their money illegally from the system, guys planning M&A (merger and acquisition) intentions with the highest level of confidentiality, investors discussing secret arrangements, lawyers and doctors discussing privileged information (naming their clients) and even observed one possible terrorist preparing a PowerPoint deck containing his thoughts on jihad.

Then there’s my other personal favorite … the occasional errant email meant for someone else, outlining a highly confidential arrangement that gets emailed to me by accident, followed by a follow-up threat that the information sent to me by accident is privileged and I am not allowed to do anything with it.  They don’t realize that one-way implied contracts have no legal merit nor can they undo the damage that may have been done.  At that moment, they are relying on the values and ethics of the person who received such information in error.  If I were the owner of the information, I’d rather not peg my success on such wishful thinking.

More than once, I’ve had people who, upon realizing that I had overheard them in a public place, had demanded that I sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement).  Unfortunately, I could not comply with their request.  Signing such a document doesn’t cover up their incompetence.

Information in the hands of the unknowing is useless and much of it goes by our ears every day without striking a chord with us.  However, information when mixed with context, strategic plans and tactical intention in the right person’s hands becomes knowledge.

And knowledge is power.

Who you share it with, who shares it on your behalf and who shares knowledge about you provides the opportunity to amplify or diminish that power.

I hear a lot of “gurus” tell people about how they are always on the alert to glean things from the information being shared around them.

Success, personal and professional, also requires one to be on the alert regarding how we share information with others and whom we share it with.

Instead of focusing solely on people who have access to our private information and being paranoid about what they will do with it, whether it be Facebook, some email provider or the like, we should remember that oftentimes, the greatest disseminator of private information is still the person who owns the information and who therefore has ultimate responsibility for keeping private what is meant to be private.

When we point our finger elsewhere and demand better privacy oversight from someone else, we should note where the other three fingers are pointing.

Because oftentimes, that is who we should be expecting more from.

In service and servanthood,


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