Sunday, September 23, 2007

Privacy Revisited

I have been very careful with my personal information over the years. As I have mentioned previously, I have had to obtain a restraining order because of a stalker in my past. In addition, I have personally known people who would otherwise pass as totally normal but who have developed unexplainable one-sided attachments to other people. Experiences like that will teach you to be careful. I am aware that it is almost impossible to safeguard my whereabouts thanks to several purveyors of personal information, but I still try to make it a little more difficult when possible. I'm frankly getting really sick of having to hide behind an alias like Hooeyspewer and it's getting more difficult to do these days.

I am envious of the people who can just throw it all out there and not worry about the repercussions. They can blog under their real name, post their photos and videos for public consumption under their real name, converse with total strangers without an alias on the Internet and post their real contact information as well. I would require a P.O. Box in another city in order to give out a contact address and even that would make me nervous.

I recently joined Twitter and have become acquainted with a few people who do, in fact, not only Tweet under their real names, but blog using their real names. They use their real names as their email address and/or domain name. They're on Facebook as themselves without all of the privacy guard settings and have their contact information out there for others to see. Their real names are used on YouTube, Flickr, Pownce, Digg, LinkedIn, Mash - you name it, they're there as themselves. (Well, I'm on LinkedIn under my real name, but that's the whole point of it, right?) If you Google their names, you're met with pages and pages of entries from all over the Internet. Some of these entries include information such as current phone numbers and the location of tonight's dinner reservations. I've seen articles explaining how to make your name more Google-able. I've worked pretty hard to make sure I'm not easily Google-able under my real name. I couldn't do what these people are doing in a million years - I don't know how I'd sleep.

I've actually joked with a couple of them about this and they really didn't seem too worried about the prospect of having some nut job recognize them in public or stalk them across the Internet or in real life. They're not dumb or ignorant to the possibility - they're just not too concerned with it. It's part of the job for some of these people - their job requires a public presence or they need to be accessible. An example of a person who does this at least partially for professional reasons is Robert Scoble, who was recently kind enough to Tweet updates on Twitter while at the hospital awaiting the birth of his son. (Congratulations, BTW.) I do admire these people and their families for being that accessible to the masses and I also truly hope that they never have any reason to regret that they are.


devBear said...

Interesting! Very interesting. I have struggled with this question over and over again. I started twittering / tumblring / powncing under the devBear moniker to keep it separate from my "real name" life. But once I met people in real life who I knew from Twitter, I realized that connecting with them under my real name is pretty much ok with me too. For some reason I feel ok going from Twitter to real life, but not the other way. Twitter friends know more about the "real me" than my work colleagues do.

I've reached the point where I am comfortable sharing my real-life name with most people, but not sharing my devBear name with everyone. One way, and not the other. And (ideally) no visible link between the two names.

If you google my real name, none of my pseudonomic accounts should show up... that's the hope anyway!

Sprite said...

Hmmm.. I didn't even know you had a blog linked to twitter. How did I miss that? And a subject I can so relate to!

Having learned how to avoid the tracks of a stalker, on more than one occasion, I've learned to have caution online and off. Since you've experienced it, you know what a drag it is. I've had it happen and had to seek legal assistance 3 times from 3 different stalkers. In my real life I've become a pro at avoiding stalkers. *laughs* Well, semi-pro.

Like you, I am always amazed when people use their real names. Some I understand, because THAT is their trademark. There name is their calling card, like Scobie. (Did you see the baby pictures? They're precious!)

I choose to stay hidden behind my blonde regime, and am always amazed when others are able to be so open. It's a freedom. Like you, I admire it, but am in no hurry to flash my name out front and center. lol

Alex said...

You raise an interesting issue that I try to address at the class I'm teaching on Social Media. Most people struggle with this and indeed being public may not be adviseable for everyone. I think part of it is a gender issue, where men may not feel as threatened or stalked. It may also be a generational issue: as the current generation of teens on MySpace and Facebook grows older, they may feel more comfortable managing their real identity online. Overall, it s still early days and people may learn over time what types of information is not safe to share.

Jace of Fuse! said...

I think on this subject I'm very "middle of the road." You see, I started out online using BBS's in the late 80's. Back then, everyone I knew online was someone I know in real life and it was not an issue.

We all had had our handles (aliases, screen names, whatever you want to call them these days) and we used them pretty much anywhere online we met up, and some of us even used them in person. To this day there are real world friends who call me Fuse!

Today, I'm comfortable using my name Jace of Fuse! because it's an online identity that has grown up with me. It is a very real part of who I am and I am not two seperate people in the online world and offline world. It's real enough so that I know I'm not trying to hide my identity from the world but also just vague enough to keep my real world identity slightly separated from the net. This isn't to say someone determined enough couldn't find out who I am, but they'd have to be pretty determined.

I also look at it another way. I seriously doubt anyone is going to be interested in me enough to stalk me down and present a problem. I'm simply not that interesting. Perhaps if I were a woman I would be a little more concerned because I think it's more likely that a man will stalk a woman online than vice versa.

If ever comes the day that some woman does decide to stalk me, I just ask that she be rich, beautiful, and slightly less than homicidal. :)

zemote said...

People in the public eye have had to deal with these issues forever. Now that us common people have some of the best publishing/media tools ever created, we are now having to deal with being in the public eye. I am a guy so it's probably different, but there are plenty of women that don't let it bother them. Yes there is a real risk, but the same risk applies with people you meet in real life too. My personal feeling is that we can't let these risks rule our lives and we should live how we want to live. Should we not fly because there is a risk? Should I not eat sushi because there is a risk? It may be different because i'm a man, but I would not mind if my wife wanted to live in the public eye on the internet.

-Jeff O'Hara