Landon woke up at noon and knew immediately that something wasn’t right. He could feel it on his skin: the crawling sensation of a crime being committed against him.
He went downstairs and opened his computer. He signed on to Facebook. The Facebook banner had changed. Under “Search for people, places or things” was a little box. The box said “Gotta go to the gym and feel the burn, earn that beer after :) #YOLO.” Landon gasped: that was his status update from two months ago.
Landon, panicked, signed in to Twitter. At the top of his feed was a tweet from the CIA. It said “Do u ever wonder what life would be like w/o bafrooms? Gross.” My God, thought Landon, it’s happening. They’re stealing my copyrighted material, just like I always feared they would. He went to the Google homepage. GOOGLE was spelled out in little Landon avatars from months past, including the embarrassing ones. What is happening? Landon asked himself. What kind of fucked-up world are we living in?
Landon called his best friend Cleo. “Cathy,” he said, “go on the internet and tell me what you see.”
“My name is Cleo,” said Cleo.
“Whatever, I’m a wreck,” explained Landon. “I’ll wait. Go to Google or Facebook or anything and tell me what’s there.”
Landon listened to Cleo typing for a minute. Cleo gasped.
“Landon,” said Cleo, “your shit’s all over the internet. I’m on my Gmail and I’m getting ads that are your baby photos. Your really good status messages keep popping up as ads. Your really bad status messages just got sent to me as texts from Best Buy. Are you okay? I feel like you were always saying this would happen, and now it has!”
“Yes, Cleo,” said Landon, “I always knew they would steal my information and use it against me. The world. The government. I’ve been trying to protect myself by posting messages intermittently saying “This is my stuff, you can’t have it” but nobody seems to listen to those things. I’m beginning to wonder if they aren’t even real legal disclaimers, like maybe I signed my rights over when I agreed to use these networking sites.”
“No way,” said Cleo, “that would be so weird. Call a lawyer immediately.”
Landon called his lawyer and explained the situation.
“Oh yes, Landon,” said the lawyer, “this is a huge problem. Let me get off the other line with a man whose wife was just murdered by thugs. He can wait.” The lawyer put Landon on hold for a moment and came back. “Good grief,” said the lawyer, “I’m sweating bullets for you right now.”
“I need to know my options,” said Landon. “I need to know what I can do to protect the information I make semi-public, but not nearly as public as it is right now.”
“Yes,” responded the lawyer. “Let me ask you: did you ever post a disclaimer?”
“All the time,” said Landon sadly, “I copied and pasted a lot of disclaimers, which I knew would cover my ass if this awful day ever came.”
“Good thing you did,” said his lawyer. “I’ll call the president directly.”
Landon hung up the phone and waited, staring at a blinking box at the top of CNN.com that said “Hanging out with Clea in a hammock, belly full of margaritas” and Cleo’s comment underneath saying “It’s CLEO.” He felt sick.
The phone rang. “Hello?” said Landon.
“Landon, hello, this is President Obama on the line. I hear that your information is being misused, is that correct?”
“Yes,” said Landon. “Thanks for calling. I know you’re probably busy, but I’m in a panic. You can’t imagine how violated I feel right now.”
“I can imagine,” said the president. “It’s my worst nightmare.”
“Mine too,” said Landon. “What can be done?”
“I’m calling a state of emergency,” replied the president. “What’s most important right now is that you warn everyone you can think of. Tell them about the consequences of this tragic event. Let them know that you keep seeing your things places and you didn’t put them there. And for God’s sake, Landon, tell them to copy and paste the disclaimer so it doesn’t happen to them. Can you imagine the monstrous unfolding of events if everyone were to see things they put on one page of the internet cropping up on another page? With a little photo of themselves that they only intended a thousand people to see?”
“The thought of it chills me to the bone,” said Landon. “What if this happened to my grandmother? Her status updates make me cringe! Everyone would laugh at her, not just the people who laugh at her already! Or my friend’s cousin! That guy is the laughingstock of his corner of the internet. If the world saw what he was doing? I don’t know what would happen. Riots. Outrage.”
“Pandemonium,” suggested the President, “bloodshed.”
“The Sudan,” said Landon.
“Delete your Facebook immediately,” said the president. “I think that’s the root of the problem, and if you can kill it at the root, the whole tree will die and fall and make a thud.”
“Hang on,” said Landon. “Just hang the fuck on.”
“Landon?” said the president. “What’s the issue?”
“I’m not going to delete my Facebook,” protested Landon. “Maybe I can put it on private.”
“Do you understand the gravity of this situation? Your information is spreading like a virus. In three days, every website in America could be affected. We’re talking the dissemination of deleted posts with typos, old relationship statuses, de-friendings. We’re talking a serious catastrophe. Just delete it, Landon. I’ll wait.”
“No offense,” said Landon, “but that’s totally ridiculous. Listen, maybe you can help me draft some sort of an airtight legal disclaimer. How would you — look, I could start with something like, ‘I hearby command Facebook to not take this status message or any others, past, present or future, or any photos, or otherwise revealing information and do anything with it other than let it sit. Ad quod damnum. Do not do it.’ Right?”
“I don’t think that will work,” explained the president, “since, now that I think of it, the Facebook guidelines sort of override all of that.”
“Shit,” said Landon. “Well, you know what, never mind. It’s cool. Thank you for your time.”
“Are you kidding me?” asked the president.
“No,” said Landon. “This is an awful situation, but I play a lot of online Scrabble. I’ll just be more careful from now on, I guess. I just got a lot of Twitter followers from this whole thing. So there’s the sunny side.”
The president hung up the phone. A minute later he tweeted a photo of Landon doing a kegstand. Landon had pit stains in the photo and one of his eyes was being lazy. Landon started drafting disclaimers. Surely they would protect him. Somehow.