Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back From The Dead

Today I went to a conference sponsored by the well known internet site BlogHer. I wrote about it in detail here, but I wanted to discuss one of the workshops in this forum.

Public Parenting & Privacy Session speakers: Chris Jordan, Shannon Lowe, Crystal McKee, Shino Tanaka, and Shireen Mitchell.

I went to this class hoping that any privacy fears I had would be assuaged. Alas, it was not to be. The panel consisted of one cop, one blogger who had been stalked in her comments, one blogger who admitted her anxiety issues, and one super-public blogger who uses last names and locations and everything. The moderator actually ran a website that tracked privacy issues so she had a vested interest in the topic. I wish they would have had one not-very-paranoid regular mommy blogger. I would have been an excellent choice.

At the beginning of the session, the moderator asked the audience what their safety concerns were. The answers were:

  • Sex predators
  • Kidnapping
  • Not embarrassing them
  • Photos without permission - people stealing them or taking faces to put them on other photos.
  • Worry about getting something in the mail. - if they can get address what else can they know?
  • Future implications for them - job interviews career, or anything else.
  • Questioning your parenting - you and ability to be a parent.
  • Legal issues - people in legal battles blog being used against you.
  • Violating their trust - some things not being kept secret.

It was concluded that everybody has a different threshold for privacy, but that the act of blogging is public. People discussed different ways to protect your self and your kids. The problem is that there is no statistical evidence surrounding mommyblogging and privacy. There is only anecdotal evidence, which was rampant in this session. Some people struggled personally with:

  • An advertiser using her family's photo without permission.
  • A reader continually posting a blogger's full name and address in the comments.
  • An adoption being hindered due to an undisclosed blog and an agency "not liking her writing style."
  • Criticism among acquaintances regarding a post.
  • A political blogger who posted an ultrasound photo that was used against her in abortion debates.

Don't you want some solutions to the private vs. public blogging debate? I did. Here are some of the less obvious tips that were passed along:

  • Change names to pseudonyms. This can be done by using the "search and replace" feature in blogger in order to edit past posts.
  • Using photoshop, place a watermark over photos used on your blog.
  • Trust your gut.
  • Educate your children.

Not a lot of tips, huh? The truth is, if someone wants to track me down, they are going to be able to do it in reality or in virtual reality. Personally, I use the proper first names of my family. I don't use my last name or my hometown. Maybe this gives me a false sense of security, but I'm going to live with it for now. I like having a public blog. I hope I never have reason to change my mind.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting all those great tips. I don't think I have a big enough readership to be worried about privacy issues. But I can see how others might be. I hope you never have to privatize your blog either. If you do, please invite me to read as a guest. Yours is one of my favorite blogs to read!

Hollyween said...

Very, very, very interesting, Celia.

I've been wondering about the whole last name thing. I need to change mine and have wanted to for some time now. I just need to think of something catchy. How 'bout you do it for me?

A lot of my friends are suddenly going private and it freaks me out thinking that I should do the same. But we all know that private blogs aren't as much fun. It's just a fact. For me, the main reason they're not as much fun is simply because google reader can't track them and I read so many blogs that I forget to check them on a regular basis.

I would love to hear more about what people said though. I'm captivated.

Hollyween said...

Just subscribing...

Nichole said...

Oh, C! Lovely topic! Except it freaks borderline paranoid OCD weirdos like me right out. . . .

I'm making a mental tally of how many times I've used our last name, or M's full name, and noting that my real first name is all over the place! And then there are all my friends who have our full names as links on their blogs.

Obsess. Obsess. Obsess. . .

Karen MEG said...

Thanks for the tips... I never use my last name either, and have gone back to change most of my kids' names... but then as noted, some commenters who've gotten to know me use their names in the comments. And I don't necessarily want to delete them, although that would be an easy solution.


Jessica said...

Why am I not at all worried about this???

Has anything actually bad happened to someone because of blogging?

Jessica said...

Also subscribing...why didn't it let me do this the first time i commented?

Kimberly said...


I'm a very public blogger, partly because I have this wee little hope of being a published author some day so really, why hide my full name?

I have a strange feeling of peace when I reflect on the privacy issue. And I have other friends who feel panicky and unsettled when they do.

We each need to find what keeps us at our own personal comfort level, I think.

Lauren in GA said...

I am really, really glad that you posted in detail about this. Thank you.

I keep telling myself that there is such a huge sea of mommy bloggers that it makes it less likely for someone to target me. Perhaps, I have been kind of naive in thinking that way?

Sometimes, I think about going private but, all of the bloggers that I started lurking on and then blogging with didn't have private blogs and I never would have met them had they had private blogs. (uh...did that make sense?)

Anyway...thank you for the details on this subject.

I think I may be going in the wrong direction as far as blogging with caution in mind. I just changed my profile name to, "Lauren in GA" because I have noticed several Laurens in the circles I blog with and I wanted my blog friends to know which Lauren I you think that is foolhardy?

Lauren in GA said...

I changed it to Lauren in GA because some of my blog friends only check their comments in their e-mails and I wanted them to know which Lauren I am...thought I would clarify...

Crystal said...

Hi Celia,

Although extremely grateful, I don't really understand why they invited me to that particular panel, either. I guess because I was the complete opposite of the other moms when it comes to "privacy".

Appreciate your observations!

Indy said...

My real life friends and I are really talking about this. I am just like you. I use my kids names but no city or last names. I will encourage my friends to read your post. Thanks.

smartygirl said...

another semi-privacy tip for those who are interested: with blogger at any rate, you can set your blog as "unlisted" so it's not private or password protected, but won't turn up in searches. that way you can send people links easily, and readers can send links to their friends, but it won't (or shouldn't - their system is not perfect) turn up in a google search. another option is to use meta tags to ask robots not to crawl your blog - these can be added by editing your template.