Do Social Networks Bring the End of Privacy?

From Scientific American:

Social He has a name, but most people just know him as “the Star Wars Kid.” In fact, he is known around the world by tens of millions of people. Unfortunately, his notoriety is for one of the most embarrassing moments in his life. In 2002, as a 15-year-old, the Star Wars Kid videotaped himself waving around a golf-ball retriever while pretending it was a lightsaber. Without the help of the expert choreographers working on the Star Wars movies, he stumbled around awkwardly in the video. The video was found by some of the boy’s tormentors, who uploaded it to an Internet video site. It became an instant hit with a multitude of fans. All across the blogosphere, people started mocking the boy, making fun of him for being pudgy, awkward and nerdy.

Several remixed videos of the Star Wars Kid started popping up, adorned with special effects. People edited the video to make the golf- ball retriever glow like a lightsaber. They added Star Wars music to the video. Others mashed it up with other movies. Dozens of embellished versions were created. The Star Wars Kid appeared in a video game and on the television shows Family Guy and South Park. It is one thing to be teased by classmates in school, but imagine being ridiculed by masses the world over. The teenager dropped out of school and had to seek counseling. What happened to the Star Wars Kid can happen to anyone, and it can happen in an instant. Today collecting personal information has become second nature. More and more people have cell phone cameras, digital audio recorders, Web cameras and other recording technologies that readily capture details about their lives.

For the first time in history nearly anybody can disseminate information around the world. People do not need to be famous enough to be interviewed by the mainstream media. With the Internet, anybody can reach a global audience.

More here.