Thursday, July 9, 2009

Privacy in adoption blogging

I'm not generally a paranoid person. Many things that people commonly fear - spiders, heights, sharks, plane crashes, criticism on the internet - are not actually significant dangers. Global warming is, but I've already eschewed the A/C and the TV and I reuse and reduce long before I have to recycle, and I volunteer to rescue whales/turtles/frogs/horseshoe crabs. (Yup, I save whales. Husband and I are joining the Stranding Network.)

However, I do like my privacy. I like that my presence on the internet is divided into three distinct entities, and it's difficult to find me on Website B if you only know me from Website A. My husband has a presence in additional venues, some of which contain information about me. I try to rein him in when he posts too many pictures or gets too personal, and as an additional safety measure, I don't mention him by name here.

Also, I'm very conservative with the posting of pictures.


First, because internet content stays on the internet for a long, long time. A little personal tidbit here and a closeup photograph there don't seem like such a big deal when they're posted, but these things accumulate. That's what search engine like Google are for - collecting groups of data that have accumulated in various places. It's always a good idea to Google your name once in a while and check 1) how much information about you has accumulated, 2) what kinds of information it is, and 3) whether it can all be located under a single set of search terms.

If somebody knows you by your username, will your username lead them to your legal name? Will your legal name bring up your address? (That's an almost guaranteed 'yes'.) Will a complete stranger, after having researched you, be able to recognize your child on the street and make a convincing case that he's a loving uncle?

I'm not saying it's all about child predators. There are also prospective future bosses, and the occasional harmless (but still creepy) prying eye. (I've had several people, all men, Google me and then proudly boast that they found my fiction or my photo and have an opinion on it. None of these men have done anything to be directly, but it was an unnerving thing to learn.)

Second, anonymous posting mkes us bold. We bloggers are freer with the stark reality and blunt honesty if we think no one knows who we are in real life. But if you've posted your legal name once, three years ago, in a throwaway post with some artsy photos you once took... Google will find you. Or, worse, a personal friend will address you innocently by name in a comment, leaving you wide open to Googlers.

This is why Facebook being a big privacy breach is such a big issue to some people. Even if you guard your content religiously, your friend or your cousin or, hey, your own mother can tag a photo of you for al the world - including your old college boyfriend - to see.

Third, your kids are only going to get older. Babies don't object to having their super-cute pictures plastered all over the internet. But those pictures will still be there in 15 years, unless technology moves forward in a way that leaves old data behind. (It's possible, but less likely than it used to be.) Accompanying all thoe old pictures will be all the brutally honest thoughts you needed to vent. You're creating a time capule, and it's not just strangers who will view it a couple decades from now.

I enjoy being brutally honest. It's my specialty. Harsh reality is my paintbrush. But I need to remember that Noble Cloud, and his future friends, may read this someday. More immediately, those creepy guys who took an inordinate interest in me a few years ago may read it today.

I want this blog to be read and enjoyed. I want my family and friends to understand me better when they read it. I even, in a perfect world, would like my son's birth family to stumble upon it from China and recognize him, and be reassured that he's all right.

On the other hand, a little paranoia, or perhaps caution, can't hurt.

That's my philosophy. Sometimes I follow it, sometimes I forget. I don't expect other bloggers' philosophies to match mine, and in fact I'm pleased when they're more open and forthcoming than I. I'm not much for posting photographs, and I never will be. But I hope I can get away with continuing to fill this blog with informative, entertaining, and perhaps, at times, irreverent content without compromising my privacy.

We'll see what Google has to say about the matter in another few years.


  1. Yikes! You know, I never gave any of that much thought. I just googled my blogger ID, which I use all over the place, and cannot believe the amount of information that you can find from it! Every comment I've ever made on any site with this ID comes up! How frightening! Thanks for opening my eyes about this . . .

  2. I'm the opposite and am pretty much an open book, figuring I have nothing to hide and if someone wants to find someone, they will. That doesn't mean I have to make it easy though. I could probably learn a little more discretion!

  3. Well, I can't guarantee creepy guys will look either of you up and start almost-stalking you, or even that this will be necessarily a bad thing, but it can happen to some people.