Privacy Tips for Bloggers
By: Jennine Jacob

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Privacy by definition is the ‘right to be left alone.’ Yet, these days the very definition of privacy isn’t as clear, and when you put yourself in the public eye things get fuzzier. As bloggers, we’re active members of the attention economy, we put ourselves out there to the public and develop at times, very personal public personae. You want people to read your blog… often time that involved divulging personal information, your name, photos of you…sometimes where  you live, your likes and dislikes, then you have all the social media outlets out there to promote your blog, sometimes you can’t reveal your identity because you might get fired from your job (sounds kind of super-heroish, and some are!).

So the question I’ve been wondering lately is how other people cope with managing their public online life and their private one….  when I posed this question on Twitter, here’s what some of you said…

The internet can be a minefield of privacy invasion, sometimes unwittingly. Personally, I divuldge quite a bit online therefore  have to be prepared for whatever people interpret. I can only own my experience, not outside interpretation. Indeed, there are things I would do differently today… unfortunately I wasn’t born with internet street smarts, but with experience picked up a few pointers:

  1. Don’t post anything online which I wouldn’t say or show to some random stranger on the street, to my parents (though they were much crazier than me), to my boss (me), or potential bosses… Google keeps a permanent record of everyone
  2. Make a clear boundary between public and private. I use Facebook, Myspace, Twitter…etc as marketing tools. Those profiles are for my blogs, and interact with you better, not personal purposes.
  3. I have no control over the internet. Not even Google has that. I’ll manage my persona by being the best person I know how to be today, that’s all I can do.

Be Smart

You are smart…. so negligence is no excuse, not after the internet has been around for 20 years…  basic safety tips are readily available, if you plan to make the internet part of your daily life, it’s your responsibility to protect yourself.  If you dig a little, you’ll find some amusing examples of what happens to people who don’t use internet street smarts. So familiarize yourself with the dangers of identity theft, stalking and how easy it is to access this information. Make it your personal mission to know what kind of information NOT to share… I know.. it’ makes those memes a little more challenging.

Be clear about your presence. Don’t add strangers as social network friends  to promote a personae then post ‘personal’ stuff… is that really private then? It sends a message ‘Please look at me, but don’t look at my personal pictures I’m allowing you to see.’ You’re leaving  yourself open to misinterpretation if you don’t send clear messages. If you do add strangers to your account, do read this post on 10 privacy settings to use on Facebook. (thanks Fenke).

Private accounts… If you want to participate in social media on a personal level, make private accounts, use private emails and STICK to them. Don’t create a personal account and invite a bunch of strangers (see previous paragraph). Be clear that a personal profile is personal, your friends will understand.

Create a public personae with public email addresses, public names (aliases, first names, middle names), and public venues for your blog. That way, if you decide to ditch your blog (we hope you don’t) you can make a clear break. I refrained from using my last name for a long time, until I decided to build my career around my experience blogging…. and that is a whole new post all together.

Acceptance… The internet can be a beautiful place if we just accept it the way it is. There are so many amazing things going on here because people share themselves. While some people desire privacy and anonymity, others strive for a culture of sharing and accountability. It’s finding a balance and an informed comfort zone that will help us share in peace.

What are some of the things you do to protect your privacy online?

Resources

Comments

  1. Freya says:

    An interesting post. I try and keep my surname out of my blog, but it’s easily discoverable, and since as a freelance writer I would like more SEO for myself, I’m okay with that. My address and contacts other than email are private though on Facebook.

  2. Some of the sites I use, or certain email accounts, are both personal & private to me. I’ll allow bloggers I love to be on my friends list on Facebook, because I think of them as personable people in my life. Same with my main email address. However, I do create alternate email addresses, salutations, etc. for my blog.

  3. Retro Chick says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.

    There was a very clear line between Retro Chick and my personal stuff, but as I sign up for more social networks that line has maybe blurred a bit.

    Like Ashe Mischief I did keep Facebook, apart from my Fan Page, as a personal thing and only added people I had met in the I counted as friends, either now or in the past. I have added a few IFB bloggers recently and I think as my friend list on their grows I might start making more use of their privacy features so I have more control over things like photos. Partly because I’m sure there’s many people on that list who really don’t want to see hundreds of photos of my Sisters Hen Do!

  4. WendyB says:

    Good post. Obviously I have my first and last name on my blog because it’s the name of my company as well! When I started the blog, I figured I was going to have to live with the fact that it might stop me from ever rejoining the corporate world. But I spent a long time in the corporate world already, so I guess it’s on to new things.

  5. Fenke says:

    your welcome ;-) and thanks for all the other tips!

  6. lisa says:

    Great post. I try to keep my info on a level where if people tried to contact me, they can only do so via email or online means. Also, as you suggested, I avoid posting anything I’d be ashamed to show a stranger.

  7. I agree that there has to be some privacy and as people who put themselves out there, readers, “comments” tend to think that you’re open fodder for personal invasion. I think developing an online persona where you don’t reveal cherished parts of your real life can help keep the boundary lines up.

  8. dapper kid says:

    Wonderful advice, I think as bloggers we are all exposed and sometimes a little self checking is necessary to make sure we don’t put too much information out there. Then again it’s about balance, you want to connect with others to make the experience more valuable and allow your writing to be more accessible and genuine. I don’t use my name whilst blogging, however those who take the time to email me always get my full name.

  9. Jennine says:

    ❤ freya.. yeah, it’s different when you have a blog that somehow relates to your career
    ❤ ashe…at least you have some kind of filter! :)
    ❤ swan… i replied via same link. ;-)
    ❤ retro… hehe, i want to see picutres! well it’s also different that you met the bloggers in real life, and/or had some kind of personal interaction with them, like a real conversation beyond.. oh i like your blog.
    ❤ wendy.. i’m sure the corporate world is weeping in your absence, i know the blog world would.
    ❤ fenke ❤
    ❤ lisa… there are loads of ways to make it easy to get in touch online
    ❤ stylish thought… readers only think it open fodder if you allow it, in the two years of blogging i’ve not had one invasion of my privacy, a couple of creepy emails yeah… but no invasions. (knock on wood)
    ❤ dapper.. yes, indeed balance… it’s absolutely key. you don’t have to get all crazy about concealing your identity, being smart will allow you more freedom and more connection with your readers… not less. :)

  10. I can really relate to:

    “I refrained from using my last name for a long time, until I decided to build my career around my experience blogging…. and that is a whole new post all together”

    Indeed. Great tips, btw!

  11. also for me it’s often been defined by others. as in, i started a facebook page with my real name to have for “real” world friends. then, business people found me. do i not add them? i think they would find that insulting. so i added them. so what once was private became again part of business. so now i keep a business tone on all my sites, but i allow for elements of my personality to come through. if you sanitize it too much, what do you have left?

    overall though, i find this experience odd. and interesting. definitely has given me a lot to think about over the past few years. but i do love the internet.

  12. Freya says:

    Since I started blogging about my life, I decided that under no circumtstances, I would reveal my identity, until something dramatic happens. I started getting praise and even though I’m very very pressurized to reveal myself, I’m firm and I don’t compromise. Maybe in future I will reveal, but only for a strong reason. Even when I post photos, I hide my face or edit it in such a way that it just gives a hint of my face.

    I feel very safe this way and I think I have got the best of internet. People here know me and they don’t know me. wink wink

  13. getpalmd says:

    I have some very personal information in my blog and if someone would like to know my surname as well, it wouldn’t be that hard to find out. I personally like blogs that are a bit personal as well. If you write things you can’t stand behind, and think they would harm your job position, then seriously, those are things you shouldn’t even write about, right? That’s only my opinion, but I can personally stand behing every word I write, I can sincerely say that it’s only me and I don’t do any harm to other people.

  14. Great article. I use a fake-name that has it’s own alter-ego. My privacy is important to me, especially because i’m on the younger side. My pictures are never dead on with my face, and I’ve never said where I live beyond the east coast or my last name. That Godin article is also great, he’s fantastic. I tweeted that link a week or so ago, you didn’t happen to get it from me, did you?!
    :)

  15. cashmere says:

    it’s true, case in point, a employee of the philadelphia eagles, was ranting about a trade (brian dawkins), on facebook, and he was fired (by the eagles) & let go days later via phone…

    http://www.cashmerethought.blogspot.com

  16. Trisch says:

    Well, I don’t post anything I’m not okay with. I keep my facebook relatively private, and even then there isn’t anything very incriminating on it. I don’t talk about my job in detail at all. I also rarely use my last name. I think it’s really all common sense. Don’t allow people to see what you don’t want them to see.

  17. candid cool says:

    i just try to not think about it too much. my name is not really google-able, but something popped up recently, yet it has nothing to do with my blog. some random poem i wrote when i was in high school has come up. so i protect my first and last name. but im not going to make myself crazy thinking it over.

  18. AP23 says:

    If you do not share your full name, private email or your exact location on your blog and don’t link it to your private facebook site, how could that harm you in the corporate world? It would be a huge coincendence, if your future boss would also be a person who views your blog.
    I think that if you don’t want the blogging side of your life to conflict with the “outside” world that is all you have to think of. Or am I forgetting something important?

  19. Galina says:

    Good to read it before starting the blog…thanks for sharing your experience!
    BTW you are welcome to visit my FB fan page devoted to fashion. Here you can find lots of nice and interesting facts and quotes about fashion…and maybe u will get much more inspiration for ur own blogs from this page! ;)
    http://www.facebook.com/fashionimmersion

  20. Jan says:

    Thank you for posting this article. I’d love to see more articles about the darker side of blogging- namely, dealing with creepy people, particularly those who are exhibiting stalking behavior. Has anyone had this problem, and how have you dealt with it?

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