Friday, December 9

Internet Privacy: Hiding in Plain Sight

Some of my friends have asked if I feel creepy having so many strangers looking at our blog.

I thought about this question as Gwen and I walked through the mall this morning. Several hundred people probably saw us. Most just kept walking but some smiled and a few actually said "Hello". This isn't unlike the people who see our blog (we've averaged about 170 hits per day since we started the blog).

We share some pretty personal stuff here but we don't share *everything*. For example, we don't mention our last name or our address or our phone number. We don't link to our private home website or the personal websites of our friends. We know this might seem over-cautious to some people but we like this level of privacy and we feel like it's sufficient to protect us.

Blogging is a wonderful way to reach through cyber space and embrace other people who are experiencing a similar journey but let's be honest -- This is a very filtered view of our life. Yes, strangers can see us but it's more private than being at the mall where strangers can see us in person. Or, even worse, being in our own front yard where strangers can not only see who we are but can also see where we live and could (I suppose) figure out a way to hurt us if they really wanted to. And, unlike the folks who see us when we're at Safeway squeezing cantaloupe, the vast majority of people who visit this blog are those who find it because of searches related to adoption. Yes, some of those people have turned out to be pretty weird but we still feel safe here.

Blogger has millions of blogs and even though we're in plain sight, we're much like the pebbles on the beach because we're visible to anyone who knows, specifically, where to look for us but pretty much invisible to everyone else. I've thought about moving to another blog service and putting a password up but I'm comfortable here and I feel like I'm among friends.

I've heard Blogger may soon offer a low fee premium service with optional password gate but I don't think I would use it. Would you?


Blogger Johnny said...

I know how ya feel.

December 12, 2005 7:02 PM  
Blogger M3 (Mary-Mia) said...

I'm pretty sure we'll keep our blog open but just continue to be careful about what we post. We religiously keep our last name and any identifying information off our blog and out of people's comments. In fact if a relative accidentally slips something identifying into a comment I'll instantly delete the comment and repost it without the extra information. I'm not even sure why I take that level of precaution since I've never once heard of anyone having blog-induced stalking problems. I guess I'm naturally paranoid, plus I see other people being cautious and so I am too.

Anyhow, this is kind of a long-winded way of saying that I don't plan to go password protected but I will continue to keep my eyes wide open and my radar on alert.

December 12, 2005 9:38 PM  
Blogger ExCindrela said...

Naw, we wouldn't go to password land.
Admittedly we too share personal stuff, and if someone took the time they could probably narrow down our location to 50 sq miles- but until we disallowed anonymous comments & added verification people didn't bother to stalk...they just criticized & passed judgement from the comfort of cyber space! :)
Besides, it's not the cyber freaks I worry about- it's the flesh and blood ones in my own community that can make rude or racist comments in front of my daughter.

We're open!


December 12, 2005 11:13 PM  
Blogger Sjoukje said...

Hi Donna,
I wondered about this too. My own site contains lots of photos of my children (like yours) and no password protection. I also do not mention our last name or phone number. But if someone would be really curious, they can find out everything. "Google is your friend": combine a few things in a search and my home address comes out (since I'm the contact address for a choir). I don't feel very much in danger (after all, I'm also in the phone book).

But the other day, while I was searching for a picture (the second tab in Google search), I was astonished to find.... a picture of my own son. His photograph (of him on a bike with an enormous paper hat on his head) had ended up in somebody elses weblog, with a comment like: "Oh, have you ever seen such a great paper hat". So a very positive comment. (By the way, I could only find it in Google, not in the actual blog anymore, probably already deleted).

That really gave me the shivers. Everybody can do that: copy our photographs and post them elsewhere. And maybe be not so nice about them as this one.

But on second thought: You're right, there are billions of photographs out there as there are pebbles on the beach and faces in the mall. Is it so bad that sometimes someone unknown 'spots' us?

The only difference is the search option. On the internet, you can be FOUND by billions of people, which is impossible at the mall. There will only be a few thousands there, at the most, who run a chance of seeing you. Also, not so many people will have the real option to go to your house and visit your front yard, as users of internet will have the option to visit your blog.

But still I think I'm with you. I don't think it's something to be really bothered by.

What does bother me that in the early days of internet I posted at some places under my real name. And these posts can STILL be found by Google. It would cost me ages to relocate the forums, but type my name and they're there. And there is nothing I can do to delete them. Once out there, for ever out there, I think. You can't undo it. Even after you place a password, you'll still be in lots of search engines and still you can be accessed.

Anyway, I postpone my decision. Nothing bad has happened and I can't imagine much that could. But I realize that once it happens, it is too late.

What do you think?


December 13, 2005 1:08 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Sjoukje, I agree that it's too late after you've posted your private information and it's been crawled and made accessible to the masses via sites like Google. That's why it's so important to be diligent about privacy from the beginning. You've known me longer than even Andrew has! But you knew me as Becca and it's just been with this blog that I've "dared" to reveal that I'm Donna.

As for the pictures of our kids that can be reposted elsewhere, I've thought long and hard about this too and concluded that even though my child is cute beyond everything (to me), she's probably just your average little Chinese baby to people who don't know her. This means that, unless she's wearing a noteworthy paper hat, there's little chance that anyone will bother to take her picture from here and put it somewhere else to comment on it. The people who have evil intentions towards children can see graphic images of kids all over the internet so pictures of my (never nude) baby girl would probably be beyond boring to them. Besides, those freaks would be more likely to hang out around the park than around adoption blogs so, again, I think we're actually safer here!

I'm not ready to hide behind a password (yet). Once you tell your password to your friends, they tell their friends and pretty soon, everyone knows your password anyway!


December 13, 2005 9:26 AM  
Blogger Perrin said...

I've been thinking about this too. Especially since I regularly post family pictures, since this is really what family and friends want to see. And, I like to have the log for my kids one day. I do not want to be ruled by fear in my life, but you also have to be realistic today. So far, I monitor who is seeing and don't really want to password protect since I am not convinced that would really protect us in the long run.

December 13, 2005 1:42 PM  
Blogger Ford & Alyson said...

If you look real hard in the picture, over to the left, a little more, more, Stop. That's us hiding with you.

It's nice to be able to hide in plain sight (site).

Amongst friends...

December 14, 2005 6:20 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I feel the same way thus far, but I haven't figured out yet how to track my visitors. Maybe once I do, I'll feel differently! I didn't "market" my blog anywhere except to send the link to family and friends that I know IRL, and many other adopting families (including you) that I didn't know before found it. I'm glad for that! I'm not sure I want to shut that window yet.

December 17, 2005 7:18 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I'm one of those strangers who's looking at your pebble now and I'm very thankful you're allowing me to do so. I'm in process now, adopting from Guatemala and feeling terrible I can't be with my daughter-to-be on Christmas. These blogs are a fantastic way to know that I'm not alone in my quest to be a parent. Thank you for allowing me to "peep" in on you.

December 25, 2005 11:28 AM  

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