There’s been a bit of a ruckus on MetaFilter recently regarding a journalist, Laurie Garrett, who attended the World Economic Forum and sent an email to her friends filled with her personal thoughts an speculations about the conference. The email was of course not intended for publication, but this being the 21st century and what with the Internet and all, the email has spread far and wide.
At first, the MetaFilter denizens were a little bemused about the whole thing and doubtful about whether it really was written by Garrett. Once it was discovered that she did write it, there was some general discussion about the email contents and some comments about her apparent unprofessionalism as a journalist for passing on confidential information to her friends and then simply assuming that they wouldn’t pass it on (instead of, say, encrypting it, or at least putting some kind of disclaimer at the end).
Then it got interesting. Two days ago, Laurie Garrett emailed MetaFilter, castigating all the readers, clamiing that her privacy was being violated, bemoaning all the useless Internet geeks in the world and essentially telling us all to ‘get a life’.
That was more than enough to engage MetaFilter members, who were either infuriated and/or pleasantly amused at the rantings of a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who doesn’t understand how security works*, and seems to think that talking politics over dinner is necessarily better than talking politics over the Internet. Sigh. It’s a wonder that there are journalists who still ‘don’t get’ the Internet. The notion that everyone who participates on Internet forums are clones of the Simpsons Comic Book Guy is, well, completely illusory, infantile and destructive.
* Emails don’t just magically appear on the Internet (or specifically, the web). Someone has to post them there, and in this case, it was one of Garrett’s friends. There’s no rational reason to get annoyed with MetaFilter, but if she does want to be annoyed, it’d be better for her to identify the original culprit(s). But as I said earlier, the blame lies with her as well, for not taking appropriate precautions when passing on sensitive information, which is a pretty risky and unprofessional thing to do.