Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Privacy for Mom Bloggers

By Laura Christine
This Felicitous Life

In the blogging world, writers maintain widely varying levels of privacy.  Some bloggers write anonymously, posting no pictures or other identifying information.  Others reveal their and their children’s full names, birth dates, pictures and locations. 


Privacy is an especially important topic for those of us “mommy bloggers” who post about our families’ day-to-day lives.  Blogging implicates not only our own but also our children’s privacy and security.  I don’t claim to be an authority on what others should or should not publish.  However, I do want to share three issues that I think all bloggers should consider:

1. If your blog is public, everyone can see it.

We all know this on an intellectual level.  However, we tend to think only of the family members, friends, and like-minded readers who frequent and comment on our blogs.  Our children are our pride and joy.  Of course we want to show them off to our readers.  This is normal!

Along with the “friendlies” who read our blogs, however, are untold numbers of anonymous viewers, and these may or may not be people we would want staring at our children if we came across them at a public park.  This fact hit home for me when I read an account by another mom blogger who posted funny pictures of her toddlers’ potty training mishaps.  She found later, to her horror, that those pictures had been altered and distributed by pornographers. 

2. Identity Theft Can Happen Even Without A Social Security Number.

I recently made a call to a respected financial institution regarding my life insurance policy.  To verify my identity, the representative asked me (a) my full name, (b) my date of birth, and (c) my address.  This sufficed to allow me to make changes to my account. 

Everyone knows not to publicize a social security number, but revealing information like birth dates and maiden names are also unsafe.  Most of us would not publish our street address on the web, but often it is available there on sites like Spokeo and Intellius.  A home address may even be discernable from the metadata in photos we post online

What are the odds of any harm coming from posting personal information on a blog?  Very small.  But then, identity theft does happen, and 100% of it happens to victims who did not expect it.  I’d rather not make myself or my children low-hanging fruit. 

3. Embarrassing Stuff Lasts A Long Time Online.

     Internet content has a way of hanging around forever, and the content we post about our children may one day be found by a future employer or future boyfriend/girlfriend doing a quick Google snoop.  Later on our children might not appreciate the fact that the embarrassing things they did as toddlers have been broadcast to the entire world.  Worse yet, blogging about a teenager’s missteps could be detrimental to their getting into college or finding employment.

      It’s important to respect our children as individuals with identities—including online identities--separate from ours.  My image may pop up for years to come when someone Googles “what to wear to a Backstreet Boys concert.”  But that’s an indignity I knowingly brought upon myself.  I’d rather not to tie my unsuspecting children to their less dignified moments forever. 

*    *    *    *

I think blogging is analogous to driving.  The best way to reduce the risk of our children’s being injured in a car accident would be to cut out all unnecessary car trips: no play dates, no extracurricular activities, no shopping excursions, no dining out.  But of course, we don’t do that.  Instead we use car seats, drive carefully, get our brakes checked, and say traveling prayers. 

Similarly, the safest option would be to avoid posting content about our children at all, or to make our blogs private.  However, I and many other mothers enjoy sharing our thoughts and pictures of every day life and sharing those thoughts with a broad audience.  It is an uplifting hobby and a way to uplift and encourage others, too. 

On my blog, I do not use my children’s real names.  I avoid posting pictures of my children undressed, no matter how cute and innocent the situation.  Even so, I cannot foresee every possible way a picture might be misused, so I also avoid posting close-ups of my children’s faces.  That way, in the extremely unlikely event of a picture’s being misappropriated, at least it will not easily be identifiable as my child. 

Is this a perfect solution?  Probably not, and I’m not saying every blogger should take the same precautions I do.  Perhaps I’ve still revealed too much.  On the other hand, perhaps our current notions of privacy will be obsolete a few decades from now, and my precautions will be all for naught.  Nevertheless, I do the best I can to balance the many benefits of blogging with the small but real risks that come with it.  I hope that in addressing these privacy concerns I can help other bloggers to do the same. 

My name is Laura, and I'm a Catholic Christian, a mom, a lawyer, and a reader. I like to think Big Thoughts, and I like to laugh at life as much as possible. 

Blog: This Felicitous Life
Twitter: @felicitouslife

8 comments:

  1. I use my daughter's real name, but I absolutely agree on the "unclothed pictures" issue. I have adorable pics of her little naked self, and she's only five months old, but there is no way I would post them online--- innocence can turn into nastiness in the wrong people's hands.

    I try only to post things that she won't be embarrassed by when she's 15. :)

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    1. Hi Rebekah, Agreed. There are some pictures that I think are so completely sweet and innocent that, surely, they could never be seen otherwise. But evil can pervert just about anything. So better to be safe than sorry! . . . And yeah, we're sure to embarrass our kids plenty when they're 15, just by being their parents, so better to minimize it while we can. ;-)

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  2. Great post, Laura! Why does the world have to be such a yucky place?!

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    1. Thanks, Mary. Fortunately, we are bound for a better world!

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  3. Such a great post, Laura! I agree with Mary, it's sad that we live in a world where we have to worry about stuff like this, but I admire your balanced approach. Thanks for the insights!

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  4. This was really interesting. I do use my children's real names, but I'm pretty careful to not post anything embarrassing or negative about them. Whenever I post pictures, I try to think if *I* would be embarrassed now (as an adult) to see a similar picture of myself from childhood. And, I never post any naked or semi-naked pictures...not even a baby in just a diaper.

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