Wherever you move on Internet, you are often forced to leave some information about yourself. To access a service, you may be asked to give your real name, phone number, address and so on. They call that required fields. Either you fill the form or you just leave it. But a lot of optional information is also intentionally released by some users.

The current trend is to share private information and photo in an intimate way, with family and friends via social networks. Even some people seem to enjoy displaying this personal data over the public internet.  Nowadays, you can tell your own story to the world, describing your day-to-day activities as it happens (e.g. via Twitter). Some say that it’s fine. It’s also ok if some people get an access (somehow) to your Facebook wall and check your pictures. It seems that if you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to hide so it’s ok if people see it.

I don’t know how much of that is true but I observed that on the other side, some people are very careful about what they display over the internet. They never connect to you if they don’t know you in real life or they simply avoid social networks. If they let you access their profile or resume, don’t even think about seeing their phone number or address. You can never find a picture of them anywhere online and when you get a chance to chat with them, they always use some nickname.

And in the middle of those two philosophies, there is the kind of average guy, who is a bit worrying about his privacy but still publish some photos from times to times; he blogs using his real name, accepts friendships from strangers on Facebook or Hi5, probably hoping to become popular someday, or whatever. I guess you see the kind of person...

So who is right? What is the right attitude toward the public Internet? Should we be worrying that a stranger can see our pictures (if so, why)? What is the actual risk of using a real name when interacting online?

UPDATE: a few months after writing this (and after a bit of research), I am starting to figure this one out. There is certainly a risk, exposure is a sort of sacrifice, as long as you know exactly what you lose and what you get, maybe it's ok.