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TWEET A PHOTO, AND THE WORLD CAN SEE

It's like The Truman Show unfiltered and uncut - and all the world can stare at it.

Tweet a picture on Twitter.com, and it almost instantly streams over Internet sites PingWire, Twicsy, Picfog and Twitcaps, whether you wanted the whole world to see it or just a close group of friends.

The sites scan for pictures and videos from around the world and stream them just moments after they're uploaded through Twitpic, Yfrog or Twitgoo. (In some cases, "goo" is right).

There's a sonogram of an unborn baby. Two kittens perched on the back of a chair. A "Happy Birthday Christine" cake. Michael Jackson.

There's a pic of a poster, pleading for information about the whereabouts of missing 12-year-old Kathryn Esther Leverenz: white female, 5 feet tall, weighing 90 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Then there's the pic of what appears to be a young female bound in ropes, with her hands behind her back and a headline, "The things that go on here ... kidnapping..."

A full body nude woman? Her name: Greeksauce.

She's tweeting her pics. And all the world can see them, just moments after she hits send.

From the mundane to the absurd, the innocent to the naughty, the funny to the disturbing, it's all there playing out for all the world to see.

I can hear Big Mama singing, Oh be careful little eyes what you see...

Catherine Davis of Tampa works in the technology field, so she's aware of the potential for wide distribution of her pictures. She's careful about what she says and the pictures she posts. And she doesn't connect her real name with her profile name in public.

"I understand all too well what and how content can be picked up by anyone who wants to find it," said Davis, who posted a bikini shot of herself. "There isn't anything that I post on Twitter that I would want to keep private."

Once you tweet it, it's in the public domain.

"PingWire only displays photos that have been posted to public profiles, and there is no confusion about the privacy of things you post to Twitter," said Allan Grinshtein, who runs the streaming site PingWire. "Indeed, if you post anything on the Internet, regardless of the number of your subscribers, there should be no confusion about its privacy - it is public."

Basically, as it has oft been repeated, with the Internet, kiss your privacy goodbye.

"What you say in a tweet, what you post in a twitpic is just like publishing in a newspaper," said Chris Beall, a copyright and First Amendment lawyer with the Washington, D.C., media firm of Levine, Sullivan, Koch and Schulz. "And, you know, as your mother used to say, 'If you don't want to see it in the newspaper, don't say it.'"

And that's not all. Understand that when you're outside of your house or private location such as school, someone could snap your picture with a camera phone and that photo could be streaming in seconds over the Internet.

Sunbathing at the beach: public. Walking on the sidewalk: public. Facebook and Twitter: public.

So here's the Edge:

- Talk to your children. It's been stated before, but the photo streaming is here to remind us that what children post with twitpic can be seen by the whole world, not just their friends. If you want to limit access to the streaming sites and what your child sees, check the filters on your computer or consult someone who can help you.

- Watch what you post. Once you upload a picture to Twitter, you have surrendered privacy of your material. If you were drunk when the picture was taken and tweeted it, it's too late to get yourself together.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. The Consumers Edge is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge.

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