“Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication.”
The above quote is from Chrysler in response to outcry over an inflammatory Tweet about Detroit drivers. The Tweet appeared to have been issued by Chrysler but turned out to be from an employee at New Media Strategies (one of Chrysler's social media agencies) who had thought he was using his personal Twitter account. Oops.
The author of the offending 21-word Tweet was quickly fired by the agency. Chrysler further explained their response to the action—some questioned whether they were overreacting—and defended their response by citing their role within the Detroit community and in the recovery of the automobile industry.
For those who might wonder who would follow the tweets of an automobile manufacturer, the @ChryslerAutos Twitter account—prior to the accidental tweet—had almost 8,000 followers. A second, larger account, @Chrysler, had 12,000 followers. Once the story broke, however, the news became national, reaching millions.
This mishap is not only a warning for corporations, it is a good reminder that the line between public and private actions has narrowed to nearly nothing. Often, the violation of our privacy originates with our own actions. Or, as a friend succinctly put it, “You can’t keep your own secrets.”
This example illustrates the potential damage of rapid-fire technology to both personal and professional reputations, and the casualties are adding up. The origination, of course, cannot be placed only on the speed of connectivity; it begins with integrity. One needs to be cognizant that one’s own worst enemy—when it comes to what is private and what is public—is one’s self.
For example, former Christian Dior chief designer John Galliano’s now-infamous, hate-filled rant at a Parisian café was captured by an ever-present smartphone video camera. Christian Dior took immediate action to distance themselves from Galliano and his designer label—he was fired the morning after the video was released.
The lessons learned here are obvious. No longer can one enjoy the privacy and mystery surrounding one’s own private affairs, as France’s King Louis XIV did upon secretly marrying Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon in 1683. Her marriage was never officially announced, or confirmed. This is in stark contrast to the actions of Chris Lee, a married New York state congressman who responded to a personal advertisement on Craigslist with his photo and personal email address. What began as a series of emails was transformed into a public outing on Gawker.com, and Lee’s near-immediate resignation. So much for the dark curtain surrounding one’s private affairs.
Digital sunlight shines on every one and every thing; secret anything may soon become extinct. With the redefining of privacy, one must newly consider how private actions become available for a wider public. From reviewing the settings on your online accounts, to being responsible for your actions at all times of the day or night, your life is public in ways that can quickly become the stuff of legend.