Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, November 4, 2013

Are Privacy Issues Online an Issue?

In the years before Facebook, and even earlier-- like in the 1990's--back when we saw the Internet as a creepy place of chat rooms and stalkers, parents were warned not to let their kids sign in unsupervised. "Only to do homework, and that under watchful eyes."

Now those same kids are grown up parents of darling little kids, and they are online posting photos, names and ages of their children. Everyone is doing it, and yet it was really not so long ago that we were all worried about privacy issues. What happened that made these concerns go away?

And can we really trust Facebook, or Google (ha!) or any other online site with their spotty guarantees and frequently changing policies to guard our privacy for us? Of course not. Mainly since they're all in the business of collecting and sharing and selling information about their major product, which is us. Us and our kids.

I have to admit, I've not previously been concerned about privacy. My job was to get information out about my books, and to do that you've got to share a lot about yourself, not just as an author but as a person. Blogging itself opens numerous doors to one's personal world. Maybe at first one is careful but as time goes by, and online seems like such a nice safe and cozy little world, the guard comes down. More information is shared. Pretty much anything anyone wants to find out about a person is there.

What do you think? Should we be concerned? More careful about what we post and share? And if you've got any stories to tell about this topic one way or the other, please let us know. Because there's a little voice in the back of my head right now that's warning me to just watch it.

Here's an example and something that bothers me on so many levels:

My address is posted on the "white pages" or various other directories when you Google WiDo.  I've never given out my home address as WiDo's business address, yet every PO box my husband or I have rented for any purpose (some even before we were involved with WiDo) shows up as WiDo's "address" on Google. When we moved houses our new address showed up as WiDo's "address."

The information is not only wrong-- WiDo's address is clearly posted on its website and has never changed in six years-- yet if my husband and I move or rent a PO Box, these addresses are what random online directories post for WiDo Publishing. I'd not only like to get the correct information out there, I'd like to know how to keep our private lives private!

What do you think? How can we blog and be involved on social media, oftentimes as part of our business marketing plans, and still maintain our personal privacy? Is it even possible? I don't think it is, but if anyone knows otherwise please share!

37 comments:

  1. There's a large part of my personal life that I keep private. I only post what I think is appropriate.

    And while I don't have children, I think people are playing with fire discussing their children and posting their pictures. There are too many creeps in the ether--and some of them could even be writers.

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  2. I use all the privacy options to the max on social media sites! But then I'm not marketing anything but I guess if one is, one really has to be totally on the ball and in control and not be complacent.

    I find it quite bizarre the need to share most intimate details of one's lives - I still cringe when someone screams out their bank/card details over their mobile phones when in a crowded train carriage!

    Take care
    x

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  3. I agree with Maria - I never post anything personal that I would not want broadcast. Facebook is worst of all, having recently changed all privacy rules - they are always changing the rules and not notifying people. Then there is our wonderful governments that have everything possible about each and every citizen on the planet on the internet -"Paid Searches", you can pay for - Credit companies, Banks, you name it, it is there.
    I find it really sad and stupid that Families post their homes and children photos where it is open for the whole world to see. As Maria said, there are more creeps than one could ever imagine. The golden rule, is "If you don't want someone else to eventually see your life, then don't put it out there" I cannot understand Mothers posting their little kids photos online - as my Mom would say - "Were they born yesterday"??? DUH - I think basically, most people do not read what they accept when joining anything - so take the time to read before you accept or decline, no matter how long or boring it is - most people don't.

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  4. I think we need to be really careful - like you, I have books to market, so need an online presence.

    But that doesn't mean I have the right to post pictures about my daughters and grandchildren - occasionally I write about them, but the children are never named, and daughters only when they have agreed what I write.

    I have an online persona - and that's fine. My private life is still very private. And that's fine too.

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  5. I honestly don't think it's possible anymore. Though, I do wish it was!

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  6. I'm with Jess, it's probably not possible. And it's quite a bit scary.

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  7. That is scary that the information is available online. Some of those sites you can ask to have it removed.

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    1. Alex, Tried repeatedly with the online directories. It's like talking to a dead person.

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    2. Very true - have friends that had same experience.

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  8. Scary true! What is the answer? I have no idea - because I don't understand how we can stop it. Good to talk about it I guess.

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  9. I knew going into this writing thing that I couldn't/wouldn't do it under my own name, so I chose a pen name. Two actually. Just to make double sure that if the first one leaked, the second one would be there as back-up. And that, so far, has worked for me. I don't post anything about Monster's real name other than Monster. And the book I wrote for the school, the secretary knows that I am Anne Gallagher if anyone should ask.

    I don't think in this day and age we can escape from the lack of privacy.

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    1. Anne, If I were starting over, I'd seriously consider a pen name.

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  10. I know this is an issue, and something to think about. I personally like to see my grandchildren's pictures via Facebook. In all my years on the computer, I've never had any problems...until some stranger called and pretended to be my oldest granddaughter. Now, I don't post my grandchildren's pictures anymore on my blog, but that's all I've toned down on. I'm cautious, but I''m not paranoid. The world, both micro and macro, is a dangerous place. I just try to stay away from those places (I never open any unidentified email e.g.). We basically, I think, just have to be alert.

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  11. I think anyone can find my address online, because I still get stuff from my college and high school even though I never gave them my new address. Privacy is an issue for me too, since I'm still anonymous online. I do worry that someone from school will find my blog. I don't think I've written anything that could get me in trouble, but I don't want my students or my fellow grad students reading my posts, especially the ones about online dating.

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    1. Neurotic, If you wanted to write professionally you'd be the prime candidate for a pseudonym. You could then change your neurotic workaholic blog to your author name and no one would be the wiser.

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  12. Guess it's a two-edged sword. Writers and artists need to be known, yet we all want our privacy. Perhaps it's impossible to do both. Thanks for the reminder.
    Mary Montague Sikes

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  13. I try to keep my private stuff off line but it doesn't work. It's still all there.

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  14. Google must be finding out things from other places, such as public records, because googling myself, I found our property here listed with a value attached. At my age, I really don't care, but if I were younger and expected to live a long time in this weird new world, I would be greatly concerned.

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  15. We've managed to remove ourselves from the online Bell South directory. We are unlisted and it made me mad to see us listed online. After so many years in this industry, I'm so careful not to reveal my address or city. I don't want the weirdos showing up on my doorstep. I don't even have the right city listed with Facebook.

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  16. I think we should be concerned, Karen . . . . . . regrettably!
    I say this because a very good friend of mine 2 years ago was attacked by internet trolls. Her blog was taken over by some very vindictive individuals and they forced her out of blogging - for good. Blogger could do nothing about it, neither could any recognized internet authority. Further they hunted her down on Facebook and forced her out of that too. She loved her writing and was highly popular in Blogland. She was so nervous so was frightened to email her friends, including me and it is only now they have left her alone and presumably moved on to terrorize someone else. It is for this reason I use an alias name in BlogLand.
    What a shame these things are allowed to occur.

    I think in general people are far too free and easy with the information they disclose about themselves on Facebook in particular.
    Best wishes, as always ~ Eddie

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    1. Eddie, Trolls are another species altogether and I can't imagine being stalked by one. That is cyber-bullying, and it's such a shame it happened to your friend. Especially that no one could stop it and her only recourse was to disappear from the Internet.

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  17. This is a great subject Karen. It really doesn't matter what you put out there, because all that information is easily available for a small price anyway. Most of it is considered public information and some of it always has been. Before people would have to the county, city, etc. To get information. Now they can get it very cheaply. Either by a single person for a small fee, or by subscribing to various internet services. For instance, anyone can go onto a county tax assessor web site and find out what property you own in that county, how much your taxes are and whether or not you've paid those taxes. There are some ways to make your information invisible, but I understand it's a very laborious and time consuming process. Even after all that, its a maybe.

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    1. Pat, Thank you for this response. I figured the address situation wasn't related to Internet and Facebook. I do love to post and view photos of my family on FB, although I really think people should use caution when posting and referring to children online, especially regarding their names and birthdays.

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  18. It's a hard thing to do. Keeping private these days is next to impossible. As far as your address goes, I do know that if you own a domain name, you must pay the extra to keep your personal info private. Perhaps that is what has happened. You always have to read the fine print - which is sometimes hard to find - and make sure to update privacy settings. It can be very time consuming.

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  19. Hi Karen .. I'm glad (well no I'm not .. but you'll get it!) I don't have kids and don't have to worry re FB et al .. but the address scenario - frankly is time wasting and time consuming .. it could be a real pain. I hope it won't be for you ...

    I keep a fairly low profile and try to do the same with my personal life ...

    Well at least you've got a football team or two batting for you?! But a very worthwhile post and interesting to read other's comments .. cheers Hilary

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  20. Oh, Karen, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I worry about this every day. I know I need an online presence in order to get published, but I'm a private person and don't like sharing personal info with people I don't know. I would never display photos young children telling "friends" who they are and where the children are and what they like to do. I agree. It is too scary. Thanks for the post. http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

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  21. A few years back, I recall seeing an interview with Bill Gates where he refereed to the Internet and personal computers as giving the illusion of security. But he stressed it is an illusion, and this registered with me.
    I think we have a false illusion that we have privacy, also. We just don't.
    Even living "clean" lives is not a protection (except with the almighty...) because, just like WiDo's address, I have found outright false information about myself on some of the info-aggregating sites. I found my age, for example, to be correct on most. But they got my husband's age as mine on two of the largest ones. Not a biggy, really. But I'm in no rush to be fifteen years older, darling.
    Before I got a Facebook account, my first Internet presence, I had the illusion that I was under the greed, and liked it that way, but I already wasn't.
    I have decided to treat this as something I can't beat, so I joined.

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    1. Mirka, If we buy a home, mail a letter, put in an address change at the post office, sign up for utilities, pay taxes, start a business-- none of which requires the Internet-- we have put our information out there. So yeah, it seems kind of silly to get paranoid about blogging and Facebook.

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    2. But I also wanted to add, the quote by Bill Gates is absolutely brilliant-- by one who knows. It's like getting too comfortable in our own homes and neighborhoods and not realizing there are those who would break in. I often think of the Elizabeth Smart case, and how the man who kidnapped her had been hired by her dad to do work on their home. How do you completely stay safe in this world? It's impossible, even without the Internet, so we do the best we can and try to keep our wits about us.

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  22. These are awesome comments, and as I consider all of your ideas and points, I think I've come to terms with my concerns and how best to address them. Also, I want to include this link to a new post by agent Rachelle Gardner about privacy and the writer: http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/is-privacy-a-thing-of-the-past/

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  23. I don't know that there's ever been such thing as personal privacy. It's easier to find out things now with the internet, but even without it's hard to hide from those who are insistent in prying into our business. I don't worry about it all that much. I'm more concerned about all the time I spend on the internet.

    Lee
    Special report today on the "Story Sprouts" book launch in L.A.
    Lot's of pictures in this one!

    Tossing It Out

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  24. This kind of stuff always scares me. Last year, I signed up for an email mailing list for a local radio station, and I used an email address that wasn't linked to my actual name in ANY way... and when I won concert tickets from them, they addressed me by my actual name. I thought that was freaky. Even the name that popped up in the To/From section of my email was a fake name, and they still knew it was me?

    I'm careful with what I share online, but I don't trust any site anymore.

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    1. Shelley, Very creepy! That's the kind of thing that kind of freaks me out.

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  25. Privacy is a concern and I think we all need to be careful about how much we put out there. I often give a false date of birth if I can't see any good reason for a site needing to know but it's still a 'required field'. As far as addresses go - I think everyone ends up in the same boat. My way of rationalising is to think that the same sort of information ends up in our paper recycling every week. I'd never put my bank details 'out there' or use a debit card unless there was no choice and I was as sure as I could be that the site was reputable (e.g. airline). We just have to be vigilant. It's the way of the new world. And criminals will get you in ways you never thought of anyway. It's really just a case of damage limitation! Really interesting post :-) and thanks for reassuring your comment on my blog!

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  26. Yeah, I keep things like addresses/phone numbers unavailable on my blog. BUT one time a parenting journal ran an article of mine and at the end it had my contact info--phone number, email address, and address (which is a PO Box since I live in a tiny town). I emailed them repeatedly to take it down and never got a response. To this day, I've gotten emails from people about that article--nothing obnoxious, just people wanting advice, but it's enough to make me very glad that I'm not a celebrity.

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  27. I guess I just figured those who want to know will be able to find out anything they want about me. Since I can't do anything about it, I try not to worry about it. Though...recently I've started putting out resumes for a new day job, and I know the thing is to Google applicants, so I'm a little curious about what they might dig up...and whether or not it can hurt my chances at a job. I feel like I've always been pretty responsible with my online presence, but you never know.

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