Have you ever typed a sentence into a web page and just prior to clicking Enter you change your mind, soften your message, or perhaps you decided not to post the message at all? Apparently the messages you choose not to post are now interesting to companies, see Self-Censorship on Facebook[summary].
I Tweeted about disclosure concerns around self-censorship a couple of years ago. I noticed I had the habit of rethinking my posts as I typed. It’s entirely human nature to type as you think. However, most people don’t realize with the dynamic nature of the Internet and web pages your posts are sent to service providers as you type, one character at a time. Pressing the Enter key or clicking the Post button tells the service provider you want to post the message and make it visible to your friends or public. Even if you choose not to post your message, your service provider knows your original post. In some ways, this behavior makes the unedited original post more interesting to service providers or government agencies working cooperatively with service providers. It’s possible the unedited original posts may be interpreted as your true thoughts on a subject.
The lesson learned, don’t type your thoughts as you go into web pages (I write this as I type into Blogger). I realize this is not very practical advice for all your posts but perhaps for the most controversial. Instead use a tool like Notepad, TextMate, TextWrangler, or even Word, to draft your message. Once you develop an acceptable message and decide to post, use your operating systems paste functions to paste into the target web page and post. This keeps your original thoughts private. The posts you decide not to send is nobody’s business except your own.
Happy New Year!