Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Privacy Concerns?

Yesterday, I had the distinctly uncomfortable feeling that Big Brother is actually watching me.  I made the mistake of googling myself.

It's amazing the amount of information that is out there that you probably don't want shared with the world.  Everyone always says that you should be careful what you write on the internet.  I know I share a lot of information about myself on my blog and I'm a very open person.  So open that it makes some members of my family distinctly uncomfortable.  I feel bad about that and for those members, I will never share any of their personal information such as their name on my blog.  But as far as I'm personally concerned, there isn't a whole lot I don't want out there. 

It's not an unknown fact that I am on Facebook.  I even have my own "fan" page, obviously.  It's just that I would like to know that what I say on someone else's Facebook page is not fodder for the entire internet community.  Facebook is my social outlet and I don't particularly want everything that I "like" or make a comment on to be out there for the whole world to see. 

Being on Facebook, I thought I had pretty good control of my privacy and I've been going in every time I hear that they have changed the privacy settings and making sure only certain information is available.  What I did not realize is that if someone else has a page that you "like" and then make comments on, if their privacy settings are not what yours are, whatever you have commented might show up on a google search, along with the page you like.  I naively thought that if I had my own privacy settings set the way I wanted them, nothing I said on someone else's page could be publicly shared with anyone other than the people who liked that page.  My husband now believes I am a mental defective because I didn't realize that was not true.  (Not really, but sometimes he wonders what the hell I am thinking when I do things.)

So, for instance, I happened to "like" a certain page and every once in awhile I would comment on something they had posted.  Well, now that shows up on a google search, even though I went in and took my comment down.  Even unliking the page doesn't fix it, because apparently, the information is actually taken from a "photograph" of the page at the time you posted your comment and even if you have changed the information, it's like a little snapshot of a moment in time when you said something that you may not have wanted to share with the entire world.

I guess the point of this post, which obviously will be available to anyone in the entire world who wants to look at it, is be careful what you say online because you never know what a search engine is going to pick up.

I know it seems obvious in this day and age that you should be careful what you put on the internet.  I know bloggers who change their children's names, their spouses names, their own names, in order to protect their privacy.  I have never wanted to do that in the interest of honesty.  A big part of my blog is talking about my bipolar disorder and trying to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness.  Wouldn't I be a hypocrite if I changed my name out of privacy concerns?  How can we remove the stigma if we won't own the illness?  I feel, and this is just my opinion, that if I change my name when writing about being bipolar, it says that I am embarrassed about it and that's the whole reason there's a stigma in the first place.

I guess my point is that if you decide to put up a Facebook "fan" page or whatever, make sure you have your privacy controls set so that anyone who puts up a comment on your page doesn't have to worry that what they said will show up on the internet. 

Someone made a comment on my feed this morning that you shouldn't put your date of birth or city in your facebook profile for privacy reasons because people can use this information to get your social security number and you sure don't want that to happen.  I took the wisdom to heart and deleted my city and birth year. 

I want to share.  I guess I wish people would be more honorable so I didn't have to worry about what I have shared.



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