Crossing the Privacy Line

Blogging has seen the rise from the obscure to the mainstream and popular probably because of one thing–the ability of just about anyone to get published online without the need for expensive and restrictive mediums. And we’ve also seen some evolution here. What used to be a popular platform for online diaries has now become a tool for marketing, a means of idea exchange, a social medium.

While a number of blogs today deal with matters that may be considered not too personal (business, marketing, money and the like), much of the blogging world still involves writings on personal matters. After all, this is what makes blogging click. Content is not some web copy that the PR agency wrote for your company. Even if a blog were about business or other such matters, there’s always that personal voice. Seasoned blog readers would know what’s real and what’s not.

But in this sense, there are also lines that can be crossed–more particularly privacy lines, whether one’s own or others’. My question here is this: how far do you go, in terms of crossing that privacy line?

I know of several folks whose blogs became popular because of the juicy stories that they write on their sites. There are stories about relationships. There are stories about money. There are stories about other people. Perhaps some people could relate, as these stories are all about real people, after all. But then when real identities are divulged online, then there lies the risk. Have you been disclosing too much information? While blogging can be a two-way medium, wherein you get to hear back from your readers, how sure are you that there are no lurkers out there who stalk you with every bit of information you disclose online, which can even extend to the offline world?

And it’s not just your privacy that you should be concerned with? How about those people you write about? How about your loved ones? Your kids? Your friends? Maybe writing about them is not such a good idea after all, if you risk their identities being exposed and their privacy being intruded into.

This is especially true for kids and teenagers, who are among the targets of online predators. Yes, it’s great to write about your baby’s first steps, or your grade-schooler’s medal in math or science. You could perhaps to post photos, too, for sharing with friends. But what if that photo and pieces of information fall into the wrong hands? It has happened, with serious consequences. Online stalkers could piece the info tidbits together and figure out who you are, where you live, where your kid goes to school.

I’m not being paranoid here, but just practical. So whenever I post about personal matters–which is rare, and is mostly relevant to the topic I write about–I try to be mindful of how much I disclose. While my mobile number is published on my blog, I definitely won’t post my address, my ID numbers, where my kids go to school, and the like. That’s common sense. But what can be tricky to watch out for are those instances where I might slip and say something inappropriate.

This goes for microblogging or lifestreaming, too, more especially so, because the impulse of posting about any matter, however trivial, is there. Don’t tweet your dirty laundry, especially if you have a public profile.

At the very least, if you really want to write about your private life, then you should implement measures like (1) password-protection, (2) for friends only posts, or (3) use of pseudonyms. Remember that when you publish something online, chances are you might never be able totally delete or retract it.