Nothing Goes Away on the Web
Tom Adelstein has published an article recently in which he pulls an article using the Way Back machine that I wrote for USENIX ;login: a decade ago on the U.S. government bid protest in which the question was debated as to whether or not NT was a "POSIX" operating system.
When I was being qualified as an expert witness in this bid protest, opposing counsel certainly had every thing I had published in old fashioned paper form to that date on the table in front of them, trying to get me to contradict myself in front of the judge. (The entire experience was a fascinating introduction to the legal process.) I am fortunately coherent (if not completely articulate) in my opinions over time with respect to software standardization, development, business economics, and open source. My opinions evolve, but I have not (yet) changed opinions on these subjects in any sort of contradictory way.
I worked at Microsoft through a period when email was in the news constantly because of litigation involving evidence exhibits of interesting emails. The unwritten rule of email was never write anything that you weren't willing to see blown up in 100 point type on a court room projector. Debates continue about personal email in a work context. This discussion will no doubt evolve to instant messenger chats and text messages. The RADAR open source project we released certainly allows all such traffic to be captured and indexed if you were a U.S. financial institution needing to track every communication and still wanting to use the most current technology tools available.
And now we all blog.
Our lives, however, are no more transparent than before it all went online. In a legal context, everything is still discoverable (in the legal sense), but now that discovery is easier and faster. In the social context, when we communicate we need always to consider the context, peoples' perceptions and memory (fickle that it can be), and how it will represent us not just now but in the future. This applies whether in a blog posted editorial or a refereed journal article, in a letter or card to a loved one, in front of a room full of people at a conference or in the pub over beer with coworkers. The online world hasn't changed this.
Even the reach I may have world wide through a blog posting found by Google doesn't change the necessity to consider international values and perceptions, as we have always had world-wide distributed media, books, conferences, journals, etc.
A friend once (enviously) accused me of saying things other people only think. But for all the things I "share" there is still a wealth of private material buried deeply. (Indeed I can hide it better by boldly sharing other things.) We self edit and self mediate all the time. The online world doesn't make our lives more transparent than we already were willing to share (or not). It simply makes those things we share more accessible.