Monday, September 22, 2008

Internet Privacy

Or - Why I didn't participate in the "Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know All About Me" challenge.

I gave an assignment to my classes which they submitted late last week in which they were to "Google" themselves and find out what they could find out about themselves. They were also to check their MySpace and/or Facebook profiles to see what a person just browsing the Web could find out about them. I also gave them links to government databases of various states so that they could check the information available for viewing there.

Many of my students found very little about themselves; others found a great deal of information about themselves or about their families, some of which was disturbing to them.

Any time that I reveal personal information about myself, I am very careful to weigh that and its potential consequences. I'm simply not comfortable putting too much into one post about myself. When I choose to reveal something, I make sure it is something that I'm comfortable revealing and that there is a point to revealing it.

I do not like to blog about living persons. Most of the time such persons remain unidentified by given name in my posts if I find it useful to include a slight mention. Many of you may have noticed that when the carnivals are on topics where I would have to reveal personal information about a living individual that I have not participated in that carnival.

I simply read about too many security breaches involving too much personal information. Take for example a post that has been in the news this last week. Gov. Sarah Palin's email was hacked because of information in a news story about her. Apparently her password was too easy to guess and a hacker cracked into her email account. Those of us here in East Tennessee are far too well acquainted with the story as a student at a nearby university appears to be the chief suspect in the breach.

I do reveal information about myself in the blog, but that information is revealed over a long period of time. I am not criticizing those of you who have chosen to reveal personal information, but I also do not criticize persons who choose to blog anonymously or under a pseudonym. For a long time, I simply signed my articles with "Lori." I ended up signing articles with both first and last name because it became common knowledge because other bloggers revealed my identity. We, as bloggers, need to be sensitive to the privacy of our fellow bloggers as well.

When is the last time you checked to see what personally identifiable information about you was available out on the Internet? Is there enough there that someone could assume your identity if they so chose? If so, you better be studying up on what to do if your identity is stolen! [Class dismissed.]


Jasia said...

Bravo Lori! I couldn't agree more and I couldn't have said it better. I too am careful about what I reveal on my blog. I'm careful about who I choose to be "friends" with on fb as well. (I'm actually considering deleting my fb page altogether.) It's a scary world in which we live.

Randy Seaver said...

Good post, Lori, and I think your assignment is a good one for students to do - especially at a young age.

I have tried in the recent year to not reveal living person info, especially of my daughters and their families, but also my clients and colleagues (society and blogging). For instance, I'm using Project M in my posts for a surname project while still being able to provide blog fodder based on my research.

I know some females are particularly wary about being stalked and I understand their desire for semi-anonymity, and have been using just the name identified on their blog in my own blog posts when I do a "Best of..." post.

People tell me "you sure have a lot of info out on the internet about yourself" and it's true - but it would take a lot of work to step into my identity or persona.

One thing I did recently was to set up Google Alerts for my name and blog name just to see if anybody was saying something about me.

Take care -- Randy

Ally said...

Glad to hear someone else speak on this... many friends of mine have given me a hard time over the years about being too concerned about personal information on the internet - but its always been one of my big concerns... Googling my real name doesn't turn up much that is me (you have to wade through a whole lot to find me - thats the good thing about a common last name) and even putting my full name in quotes only gets you a graduation bulletin online and another similar mention... but the whole though still scares the daylights out of me...

Terry Thornton said...

Lori, You will be missed at the "Getting to Know You" challenge at Hill Country.

Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi

Lori Thornton said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I'm glad to see that others are concerned as well.

Thomas MacEntee said...

thanks Lori - very insightful and I love the class exercise. When I was teaching technology courses (mostly intro to Internet) I always had my students do what I call an "ego search" on Google.

I have total respect for those that only want to reveal what they want to reveal on the Internet. It is your identity after all and you have every right to protect it and not to be badgered into posting items with which you feel uncomfortable.

While there are times when I read your posts I wish I knew more about you, I do know that over time - as you mentioned - I will get a better picture of Lori.