Saturday, June 10, 2006
Recently, the issue of privacy and blogs has come to the forefront of OmegaMom's (simple) mind. First, there was a spate of posts on The Big Chinese Adoption List relating to the question of whether one should have a public blog chronicling the adoption journey. The "erm, um..." responses come from people who discussed such things as (a) the persistence of internet postings in terms of posts coming back to bite someone on the butt years later; (b) the question of privacy for the children, and, when they're older, how will they feel about details of their lives being posted on the internet; (c) the question of being "out there" with details of one's own private life (such as, "hey, when you travel to China, people will know your house is vacant for two weeks!", or "why do I need to know about my sister's husband's sperm count?"). Solutions tossed out were fourfold: have a password-protected blog for friends and family only; have a private email list a la YahooGroups; don't do any such thing; or let it all hang out. As I said recently, when discussing one blogger's encounter with a real-life coworker who didn't like her blog, I don't publish names (which I've been rather lax on recently in terms of OmegaDotter, and plan to do a leetle clean-up here and there), strive to cloak real place names, but don't really worry too terribly much if folks who read regularly figure out where we are 'cause we're so stodgy and quiet that it's not likely anyone will decide that we're good cyber-stalking candidates. And if anyone does figure out where we are, down to knocking on the door while we're off getting DotterSecunda (whereever she may be), they're welcome to deal with the Dawg, who is ferociously territorial and hates males of any species trespassing on the property. As one person posted to the list, identity theft is a much greater worry, and it's much easier to do than trolling people's blogs--all that's needed is a USB drive and easy access to a friend's computer at the bank or a credit card company (eek!). I do regularly do a Google search on my real name and variations. I get two hits from my last employment, in 14 pages of other hits for people with my name, and that's it. I also Google on "OmegaMom"; when I first started blogging, the majority of the hits were for an IBM program dubbed OmegaMom...now, my blogging identity has far surpassed IBM. Take that, Big Blue! But I have run across some interesting articles of late related to Googling people and how blogging can provide a wealth of information about people. First off, there's a NYTimes article about how some new graduates and people seeking to change employment are running up against more tech-savvy recruiters who Google prospective employees and interns. The gist: keep the dirt off your blog; if you want to publish rollicking reviews of your nightly revels, complete with pics, it's a good idea to put a gateway on your blog. Then there's this interesting article on how the Pentagon is mining blogsites for info on people. The researchers did an analysis of blogs and posts that scientists had done, trying to figure out if there were more conflicts of interest in peer reviews than previously thought. New data formats for tagging information on blogs and in articles are seen by the defense researchers as fodder for datamining and gathering portfolios on people to be coupled with other data, such as spending patterns. The Pentagon needs to get together with grocery store companies (and Amazon and other such companies) that keep tabs on what preferred customers prefer to purchase. Yet another article, about the inherent risks of people's curiosity coupled with portable data devices such as USB drives, makes something well-known to security folk very obvious: the hardest part of a computer system to secure is the people attached to that system. Passwords are written down. Passwords are passed around. People will attach "found" data devices to their computers because they're just curious as to what they've found. And so it goes. My take: Every step, every advance that makes it easier for people to interact will make it also easier for recruiters and hackers and thieves to get more information about you. I don't know what one can do, except, as one cousin of mine did, avoid technology altogether. (He spent many years without a bank account, cashing his paycheck immediately, paying all his bills with cash or money orders, and striving to keep a low profile, just on general principles. He has since become a bureaucrat working for the gummint, and the gummint frowns on people wanting paychecks these days--it's much cheaper to do direct deposit. They also insist on people getting email addresses and being easy to contact [and, therefore, easy to trace]. *Poof* goes K.'s low profile.) For me, I figure so long as I keep my real name out of the Google searches, I'm a happy camper.