When Everything You've Ever Said Can & Will Be Used Against You By Anyone... Forever

from the anonymity-suddenly-seems-a-little-more-interesting dept

Leave it to Rick Falkvinge to add a bit of perspective on the various debates going on in the world today concerning both data retention and anonymity, by telling people to think about how you might act knowing that anything and everything not only can, but will be used against you, by pretty much anyone at some point in the future. I'm sure some people will insist that they have no problem with this. But think about how many little things you do that could be taken out of context or used against you in some manner or another.

It’s the equivalent of a police arrest in the United States, where you are told — very seriously – that “Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law“. What happens? Well, most people take the hint and shut up completely.

Now, imagine if it wasn’t just a court of law as in the arrest scenario, but that anybody that could see anything you had ever said. Future employers, dates, law enforcement… not just in your own country, but also every country you’ll ever visit in the future. Also, imagine that this holds true for the rest of your life, with the laws undergoing change in the next 60 years or whatever number of years you have left, and imagine what you say today is going to be repainted in the light of 60 years from now. (There was nothing said in 1941 which was common knowledge and social glue then, but which would be terribly embarrassing and a complete block-out if found today, was there?)

It would become practically impossible to say… anything remotely challenging. At least if you wanted a future. You may still talk about the weather.

Many people are willing to share a lot of their life online. But I think almost everyone likes to keep at least some aspects of their lives private. Efforts to wipe out anonymity and to record data for as long as possible put the things you'd rather be kept secret at risk.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Pickle Monger (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    What's in a word?

    I never understood the reson behind the wording "anything you say can and will be used against you...". What if I say (truthfully!) I was reading to blind people during the time the crime was committed?

     

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    crade (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    They will find some "evidence" that you couldn't have been there (even though you were) and use your claim to show you are lying and give you a longer sentence :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    If you want to keep your life private, stop posting it on facebook / twitter / follow me / linkup / etc. Stop putting up your stupid drunk pictures, stop posting up your latest drug use videos, and stop being public about what you want to be private.

    Privacy starts with you. If you choose to violate your own privacy, well, too frigging bad.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    Anything you say can be repeated out of context by the arresting officers in order to insure your conviction.

    You're better off just never ever speaking to police officers.

     

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    Rachel @ Last Res0rt, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Re:

    Nope, sorry, someone else will say nasty things about you, and in the absence of your rebuttal, people will consider them to be true.

    That is, assuming they don't just post CLAIMING to be you and saying all these slanderous things / posting pictures they took of you while drunk.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    "Six Lines"

    There is a quotation attributed to Cardinal Richelieu:

    Give me six lines written by the most honest man in the world, and I will find enough in them to hang him.

    Given data mining and searchability, we are all looking at a noose, sooner or later.

     

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    crade (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    Re:

    Social networking are conversations with your friends, family, or other specific groups of people. Normally they aren't public broadcasts (although you can do that too I believe).

     

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    cjstg (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    that's it!

    never could put into words why i am so reluctant to post things on facebook. mike, you've hit it right there.

     

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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Normally they aren't public broadcasts

    I believe the lawyers would beg to differ. If it's on a server somewhere that isn't owned by your lawyer...it's likely fair game.

     

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    crade (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well, yes you have to keep in mind that people such as these lawyers are going to tap your conversations with your friends and family and such, but when aren't your conversations tapped these days eh? It's probably just as safe as calling em on the phone.

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    What if I say (truthfully!) I was reading to blind people during the time the crime was committed?

    They'll probably slap a civil suit on you for discriminating against the deaf.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    Because, as a human being with a limited capacity for knowledge and critical thinking, you do not and cannot know the potential consequences of anything you say. You do not know every single piece of law on the books and they can get you for anything if they look hard enough. Don't hang yourself.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4097602514885833865

    Mandatory watching for everyone.

     

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    BongoBern, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    Every little thing

    Wouldn't it be appropriate, then, to enable a person to wipe his/her history from all net servers? There's really no reason to keep everything forever for the average user. While that won't prevent downloaded material from surfacing, it would prevent access after some period of time.

     

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    PRMan, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:27pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    I was reading to blind people during the time the crime was committed?


    "So, nobody saw you then?"

     

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    crade (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: What's in a word?

    No offense, but that guy sounds like a lawyer. :)

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Every little thing

    Yes, when it reaches an age where it cannot possibly be of any legal or historical significance.

    Shouldn't be more than 10 millenia at most.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    I have a different interpretation of this situation, and a more favorable one. When everything youve ever said truly _can_ be used against you, and everyone else as well, then society will renormalize itself to discount things youve said in contexts which are appropriately ignored.

    You dont scrutinize naked bodies at the showers in the gym, just because everyone put their bodies right out there in the open. You see it, you ignore it, you pretend it didnt happen.

    You do scrutinize scantily clad bodies at the bar, because thats part of what youre supposed to be doing there.

    You say stupid stuff in informal contexts online? It will be logged, and you will not be held accountable. Hell, people won't even go looking for it. You'll be tempted to sometimes... but you won't. Because it would be a serious transgression of good manners.

    You say stupid stuff in formal contexts online? More likely to be held against you. But guess what? Folks have been dealing with tarnished reputations since time immemorial and if you have an interest in giving people a fair shake, you give them credit for more recent good behaviour.

    The Internet is even anticipatingly trying to teach this to you! You have to learn not to click that link, not to look at that thing, or you might end up goatsed or rickrolled or lemonpartied. You learn that when you don't need to click that link, you do not click it!

    When the world is at your fingertips, it is up to you to decide what information you get. It's a shift of responsibility, but everyone will be dealing with it at the same time, and it will work out in the end.

     

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    crade (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: What's in a word?

    crossed with a salesman

     

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    Prashanth (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:48pm

    Data Retention/Right to be Forgotten Online

    $TechDirtAuthors, I'm a little confused here. (I'm not saying that to troll, I'm genuinely confused.) If you're concerned about data retention laws, why/how are you simultaneously equally concerned about laws that give rights for people to be "forgotten" online? Aren't they sort of like two hands of the same body?

     

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  20.  
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    well you asked, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:52pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    In the future after it has been recorded and laws have changed to what the MPAA/RIAA want. They will come after you.

    PBAA (Periodical and Book Association of America) will sue and jail you for publicly sharing copyright works and not giving them the royalties for that sharing. After all by sharing that book contents with other people you are stifling the Periodical and Book industry. Thus they can't reproduce new works. :)

    Then the people with a patent on reading out loud to blind people will sue you for using their patent.

     

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    Drizzt, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

    You're a terrorist!

    As this seems to be an issue in the New World too now, maybe you can use some of the material which was produced in Germany, when thousands of people rose up and filed a law suit against the data retention law, which was ultimately successful or when thousands needed to be mobilized to demonstrate (Freedom not Fear is still ongoing every year). One video that stuck out was "You're a terrorist!" (Or in German: "Du bist Terrorist"), you can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdIA0jeW-24

     

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    Nobody, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    So, what you're saying is you were involved in a public performance at the time? Did you acquire the proper license for that performance?

    Sounds like you're screwed either way then...

     

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  23.  
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    Vic, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    You know very well what happens next! You're destined to go to another trial where the judge will ask you:

    1. Did you clear the licenses? (consider book publisher, author, any actor/studio who previously read the same book on the radio, other possible rights holders)

    2. Did you pay the performance fees? (you clearly engaged in public performance!)

     

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    The eejit (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Data Retention/Right to be Forgotten Online

    Not quite, though I can appreciate the confusion. Legislation should not be used for either purpose to force a company to keep/delete records outside of taxation purposes. Once someone has said something, you cannot simply take it back in the real world; the same principle allies to the written word.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Data Retention/Right to be Forgotten Online

    Not quite, though I can appreciate the confusion. Legislation should not be used for either purpose to force a company to keep/delete records outside of taxation purposes. Once someone has said something, you cannot simply take it back in the real world; the same principle allies to the written word.

     

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    Drizzt, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

    Re: You're a terrorist!

    Sorry, the BVerfG link in the previous post was wrong, C&P error, the correct one is: http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/en/press/bvg10-011en.html

     

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  27.  
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    freak (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re: "Six Lines"

    "Enemies? I have no enemies. France has enemies"


    Oh, Cardinal Richelieu! If only you had been a fictional person, I could enjoy your antics.

     

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    Sadaal, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:13pm

    He's coming to town...

    He's making a list, checking it twice gonna find out who's naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to toooowwwwnnn!

     

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  29.  
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    colony (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:20pm

    gotta link the 2 of them

    can any1 spell 'pincer movement'

     

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  30.  
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    Prisoner 201, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: What's in a word?

    Everyone should watch this.

     

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    Prisoner 201, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:30pm

    Re:

    Privacy starts with you. If you choose to violate your own privacy, well, too frigging bad.

    And when the ISPs log all my browsing, deep scans all my packets, tracks what IPs I VPN to, my provider logs my cell phone activity and position, all of this in the name of the artists, children or terrorists, how exactly is that me violating my privacy?

    I should not have to go Amish to keep a little privacy.

     

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  32.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, it's not as safe as talking on the phone. Yes, phone calls are widely and routinely tapped, however at least there are laws that do reduce this activity. The phone company cannot record your conversations, let alone give them to anyone, without permission (yours or governmental).

    These laws do not apply to things like facebook et al. Under the typical TOS, these services are perfectly within their rights to copy all of the communication that goes over them and give them to anyone they wish. Even if the TOS forbids it, they haven't committed a crime, they have breached a contract and the only remedy is a civil one. If the phone company does the same, it's a felony.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Re:

    If you want to keep your life private, stop using the internet, bank cards, rewards programs, cell phones, etc. for any purpose.


    FTFY

     

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    crade (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Captain obvious to the rescue! :)
    Yeah, the laws aren't right thats what I was getting at!

     

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    HothMonster, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:48pm

    Re:

    "You'll be tempted to sometimes... but you won't. Because it would be a serious transgression of good manners."

    Get enough lawyers and you don't need manners

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    There's a tacit assumption in your premise that the laws as they currently exist, wherever you happen to be, are just and perfect. So the internet should be a complete no-fly zone for anyone advocating anything currently criminal be made non-criminal? That's not even addressing the assumptions you're making about morals.

     

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  37.  
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    Nicedoggy, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

    What happens when people can't forget the image of ex-president Lula (Brazil) scratching his crotch in public?

    http://images.uncyc.org/pt/d/d3/180px-Lula_da_silva.jpg

    I bet he tried really hard to have the image removed.

     

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    Prashanth (profile), Aug 9th, 2011 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Data Retention/Right to be Forgotten Online

    I understand the first part of your statement, but I feel the second part contradicts that. Yes, you shouldn't be able to wipe something off the Internet on a whim, just like you can't wipe out what you've already said in print or by your own voice (unless your name is Joseph Stalin), but doesn't that mean that anyone can and should have the right to use what you have said against you, even [dun dun dun] the government? I mean, I agree that the government shouldn't be able to force companies to keep unnecessary data beyond the length of time necessary for taxation purposes. (Then again, is there anything particularly wrong with it imposing upper limits on how long Google can keep its data?) But suppose it never ends up forcing data retention laws. Is there anything that is so sacrilegious about the government using against you information that has been retained independently of government legislation, versus any other non-government entity doing the same?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 7:06pm

    I'm glad I don't say much.

     

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    Alien Bard, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Data Retention/Right to be Forgotten Online

    The difference is in the purpose: Data such as tax records need to be kept for an extended time frame, but they do not need to be made available on line. Data such as Facebook entries and IPs do not need to kept or made available at all. There is absolutely no legal reason to retain search engine entries for average citizens (though the data may be useful for marketing purposes). The decision to keep or delete information you have posted in your personal web spaces should belong to you, not some other agency, and especially not to the government. If you say something slanderous (on or off line) it is the job of the victim to present evidence - off line this would mean getting witnesses or a recording, on line it would mean getting witnesses or a screen shot (visual recording).

    Please note this is not the same as an enforcement agency monitoring your specific communications with due process and probable cause. As an average citizen you should not have anything to worry about from the FBI overhearing your opinions about hacking, gays, or oil rights. I do realize this has been changing lately.

    And, no, information stored outside of government legislation is a separate issue (IMO). Though the method of acquiring that information may be more problematical since it is only valid if acquired through legal process (even Facebook users are allowed a limited expectation of privacy).

    My apologies if I've misunderstood your question.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Mouse, Aug 9th, 2011 @ 11:49pm

    Re:

    Same thing that happens when people forget Bush barfed all over the Japanese Prime Minster while stoned out on Halcyon.

    And try to find more than 1-2 sources for that video clip now... it's been sanitized.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 12:03am

    Re: Re: What's in a word?

    Anything you say can be repeated out of context by the arresting officers in order to insure your conviction. You're better off just never ever speaking to police officers.

    That's sure the truth. What a lot of people don't realize is that due to the way that the laws of evidence work, a defendant cannot object to anything incriminating that they may say being used against them at trial, but the prosecutor *can* object to anything exculpatory (showing innocence) from being used. In other words, your words to a police officer may only be used *against* you, not *for* you. There is legally *nothing* you can say to a cop that can help you later, only hurt you, no matter how innocent you may be. So keep your mouth shut!

     

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    eclecticdave (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re:

    And if the you and your lawyers all have drunken photos and such on-line too?

    What I think AC is getting at is that we're in a transitional period when it comes to social networking. Rather than everyone suddenly realising what a terrible mistake they've made in putting so much of their personal lives on-line, it could just as easily go the other way and society could redefine what is considered "personal information".

    If the next generation considers it the norm to make public what we would consider private, then there wouldn't be anything to gain in someone else digging it up. Just a few decades ago, a couple living together and raising children out of wedlock would be considered a terrible scandal and make them pariahs in the local community, while today it is considered perfectly acceptable and not unusual. Today's scandals are often tomorrow's banalities.

     

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    Law Abiding Citizen, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:04am

    Does the term " FREEDOM OF SPEECH" ring any bells PINHEAD, COME BACK AND 25 YEARS AND I'LL KICK YOUR A$$

     

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    Alcadema, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:43am

    Re:

    You say stupid stuff in informal contexts online? It will be logged, and you will not be held accountable. Hell, people won't even go looking for it. You'll be tempted to sometimes... but you won't. Because it would be a serious transgression of good manners.

    While people DO care about good manners in a social context, anyone out to glean any kind of advantage from holding your words against you will not care about your good manners, and will happily persecute you to get whatever it is they want.

    Humans, almost by definition, are bastards. Better, I think, to deny ammunition to those who would use your words against you, than to trust in their better natures.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    Not six, three....

    "Give me three sentences written by the most innocent man, and I will find a reason to hang him"
    Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)

    “Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of the government.”
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)

    "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
    Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Today's scandals are often tomorrow's banalities.

    And vice versa. You're forgetting that today's banalities can become tomorrows scandals as well, which is why it is not good to have everything you say today recorded to be rejudged in the future.

     

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    wishy (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Anonymous coward

    You know, I read this blog and notice that the same few people are the only ones commenting. Which, i guess is okay, but is it necessary to be so critical and mean?

    "Because, as a human being with a limited capacity for knowledge and critical thinking, you do not and cannot know the potential consequences of anything you say."

    I mean, I know you're smart, and I have no doubt that you consider yourself to be the smartest person on this blog but you demean yourself when you stoop to insults. And yes, big words with many syllables aside, you still are insulting others.

     

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    eclecticdave (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm not convinced this is necessarily something to worry about either. Again you have to look at equivalent situations today.

    People do not generally "rejudge" peoples past actions without making allowances for the fact that such actions might have been considered OK at the time.

    For example today it is considered stupid and reckless for a man to promiscuously engage in unprotected sex with a number of women, but you would not consider someone who behaved like this during the 60s to be stupid. Instead you would correctly recognise that they could not possibly have known about things like HIV back then.

     

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  50.  
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    Peter S. Chamberlain (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 11:57pm

    Re: What's in a word?

    I'm a retired lawyer, and have been involved as a party in some litigation. You're just flat out dead wrong. Anything you say, or don't say for that matter, can and will be twisted around and used against you.
    One error in story: the average criminal is not as bright as he thinks he is and getting him to keep his mouth shut and not write foolish letters, too, is a challenge for defense counsel. My favorite example: letter to judge:
    I didn't do it. I wasn't there. I saw the girl (victim)." Another client said, in court, "I didn't steal the car, the dealer left the keys in it." Civil case defendant: Do you have a current official Volkswagen manual? No. But I paid Joe Doaks to sneak one out for me and the dirty thief didn't steal one for me like he promised." I wasn't going over 60 [then, minutes later) 70, then, later, 80."
    Expressions of sympathy for the other guy hurt in a wreck, "You people . . . ," "I thought . . . ," not reporting a rape instantly, or "I think I need to talk to a lawyer" can prejudice nad have prejudiced cases.

    This "anything you ever said on line can and will be used against you forever" problem is very real, as you will learn if you ever find yourself caught up in a lawsuit, or on TV news, and get asked about it all, Everybody can be made out to look like a liar if somebody wants to do that. I had a judge insist I had said something in an oral argument, while talking about another point, that would have been contrary to something I had said fourteen times in writing in the case record. I never cold find out what he was talking about. And that's just the things I have said and posted publicly.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:42am

    Re: Anonymous coward

    "Because, as a human being with a limited capacity for knowledge and critical thinking, you do not and cannot know the potential consequences of anything you say."

    I mean, I know you're smart, and I have no doubt that you consider yourself to be the smartest person on this blog but you demean yourself when you stoop to insults. And yes, big words with many syllables aside, you still are insulting others.


    Most people would consider that limitation to be true for all human beings. Do you really think that you're so different? Wow.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    People do not generally "rejudge" peoples past actions without making allowances for the fact that such actions might have been considered OK at the time.

    For example, at one time it was considered OK to own slaves in the Southern US. I'm sure nobody today would criticize what was done back then, would they?
    /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "People do not generally "rejudge" peoples past actions without making allowances for the fact that such actions might have been considered OK at the time."

    You might want to tell that to the many people who have been convicted of war crimes only later, after they lost the war.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You might want to tell that to the many people who have been convicted of war crimes only later, after they lost the war.

    Heh, yeah, Nazis are a good example of that. They were once considered to be "heros" in Germany. I think they've been rejudged a little these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    eclecticdave (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I didn't think it would be long before the Nazis found their way into the discussion ;-)

    Are you saying that there were people during WWII that believed that sending millions of Jews to the gas chamber was not only acceptable, but somehow believed that such actions were beyond reproach and could not imagine coming under future criticism?

    Maybe there were such people, I admit I can't see into minds of such people.

    This isn't quite where I was going with my argument though. There is a difference between people that are considered heroes while they were able keep terrible acts under wraps who are then judged harshly when such acts come to light - and what I was discussing above of actions that were widely known about and approved of at the time but would not be approved of today.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 11:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Are you saying that there were people during WWII that believed that sending millions of Jews to the gas chamber was not only acceptable, but somehow believed that such actions were beyond reproach and could not imagine coming under future criticism?

    Huh? Do you thing that's all they did? You think that everything else they did was OK by today's standards? I think maybe you need to read up on them a little. They did lots of things, things that they were very proud of and were quite public about, other than gas chambers. Seriously, if you're that ignorant of what they did, I'm not even going to begin to list it all for you. Here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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