10 Blog Tips for Online Safety
Internet safety is not just for kids. Cyberstalking is on the increase and although most bloggers understand the need for safety for children, adults don’t always consider that they too can be targeted, especially women.
Sharon Housley (manager for FeedForAll software that creates, edits and publishes RSS feeds and podcasts) gives us some good online safety tips for bloggers. Some of it you may have heard already but merits a review anyhow.
She goes on to make certain recommendations and I have taken the liberty to add a few embellishments and blog tips of my own for bloggers.
Remember, these recommendations are mostly for adults and children require more stringent protection:
1. Be careful with your online profile: Most pundits recommend that you should have an online profile to make your blog more personable (like I do in my sidebar) but it doesn’t come without it’s security risks. While I don’t agree to not having an ‘about’ profile, consider carefully what information you want to put there. It is especially wise to avoid posting any personal details (read no. #3 below).
2. Anonymous Posting: This is what I do and I have already made my case in previous posts. But even if you don’t suffer from foot-in-mouth disease like I do and decide not to blog anonymously, you should still consider adopting an alias for posting comments in other blogs that you visit. Or if you prefer you can just use your first name (or middle) and forget the surname.
3. Avoid personal or identifying details: Don’t post in advance locations that you will be travelling to, or areas that you live near. Especially do not post your exact home address or physical location online. Never give out birthdates and/or anything else that could be used to gather information about yourself or be used to steal your identity.
Here’s another example, don’t use the email address given by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) because that can divulge your general whereabouts. Use an internet email service like Gmail instead. But remember if you forward your email to your ISP POP3 account and reply from there, your general location can still be traced by a technically savvy person. So to be absolutely safe reply to emails from directly within your webmail dashboard.
4. No photos? Hmm, I’m not sure if I agree with this one either. Otherwise I guess the social networks like Facebook et al will soon be out of business. So again it is up to you. I blog anonymously but I post my picture to personalize my blog. For me blogging under an online alias and having no picture would be too impersonal, but it is your call on what your comfort zone is.
5. Avoid inappropriate dialogue: Housley says to be careful not to engage in dialogue that could be interpreted in a way that it was not intended. It seems to me that would go for about 99% of the conversations in the blogosphere. That’s a major problem because no matter how hard you may try to correctly express yourself, there’s always somebody out there who will interpret it the wrong way. Murphy’s law rules the blogosphere just as it does in the real world.
Without having direct contact or hearing the person’s voice inflection, or seeing their body language, or understanding their sense of humor misunderstandings can and will happen. If the dialogue should degrade to a point that you are uncomfortable, disengage from the conversation rather than risk fanning the flames of discontent. Don’t forget the delete button either because that’s what it’s there for.
6. Remember there are Lurkers are out there: That’s why we have statistics tracking (or one of the reasons). She makes a valid point that even if you don’t seem to be getting much comments on your blog there will always lurkers out there who prefer to just read and won’t engage in the conversation. So don’t assume that you are only blogging to yourself or for your friends.
7. Big Brother is (also) Watching: I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again – don’t forget Googlebot. Search engines are archiving everything you that write, and with RSS newsfeeds you could even be syndicated without your knowledge.
That’s why blogs are also called an “online” diary, and you can’t just hide it in your bedroom drawer like the good old days. Think of it as an online transcription service where everything that you say can and will be used against you.
More schools, employers and governments are searching the internet for information on individuals, so your overnight fling that you wrote about 5 years ago could possibly come back to haunt you.
8. Social Networking: If you are thinking of physically meeting that blogger you have developed an online relationship with, just remember that you can never know for certain the person who you think you know is for real. Anyone can post a fake picture so please read no. #3 again.
9. The bottom line: It’s up to you to decide how much personal information you are comfortable with sharing on your blog. For example, if you decide to put an address in your profile consider using a PO Box instead of your home address. Neither would I consider posting the full name of my spouse or children.
10. Caution is the Word: The internet is a haven for all types of predators. Always remember that just because someone says something is true, it does not make it so. Predators will adopt online personas for who they think you want them to be. Just as we provide guidelines for our children, adults should be just as wary and take precautions when posting online. Source.
Do you have more ideas for safe blogging that you can share with us? Are you using any of these techniques yourself?
*This post has been recently updated.