Have you ever wondered about your online footprint? Or your online privacy? I have. To be honest, the idea that someone could track down where I live or work from something I’ve posted online in what I thought was a private platform/forum is actually rather terrifying and sometimes makes me want to just delete everything I have ever posted online EVER. And believe when I say that fangirls are the best when it comes to online stalking. Who else could found out One Direction’s blood types? Who else would want to is probably a better question, really.
Thanks to this blog, you know my name. Who knows what else you could uncover? (That makes it sound like I have something to hide … I’m not Hannah Montana, I swear. Or am I?) Please don’t stalk me.
Some people put a fair bit of information about themselves online without even realising it. I remember speaking to some friends who had recently Google image-searched themselves out of curiousity, and were shocked to discover that all of their MySpace selfies showed up. When we were fourteen and duckfacing on MySpace before it was cool, online security wasn’t always a priority for some people. Personally, I had all of my photos set to private and only “friended” (sounds slightly less creepy than “followed”… slightly) people that I knew in reality.
A lot of people, however, were much more open and still are. With “public” profile settings, geo-location features, listings of where you live and attend school, the internet and the people on it can learn a whole lot about you in seconds. A notable and mildly terrifying example was the Girls Around Me app, which highlighted to many just how much of their so-called “personal information” was actually accessible to others.
The internet could effectively be viewed as a massive puzzle, with each link you visit and each search term you enter being a piece in the puzzle, slowly building your online identity (which can reflect many facets of your real life). Even on platforms like WordPress, there is a statistics section that tells you which country your blog views are coming from and which links were clicked on or which search terms were used to get there.
Another part of the online privacy issue is that of identity theft, or the creation of false identities. This is one thing that I recall being hammered home to us in those online safety lectures we got at school. “Don’t talk to strangers, don’t tell them where you live, don’t organise to meet with them in person.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a fair few friends that I met online on platforms like Tumblr and bonded with over being part of the same fandom, but there are certainly circumstances where online relations and sharing can become rather sinister. A friend of mine had a Tumblr blog, like many people I know, and on that blog she had a few pictures posted under the “my face” tag, like a fair few people on Tumblr do. However, unbeknownst to my friend for quite some time was the fact that another person, whom she presumably had never met or spoken to, was taking these photos and uploading them to an Instagram account, pretending to actually be the girl in the photos. Creepy much?
That is just one example of someone taking advantage of content posted online to build up their own fantasy identity. There are much more tragic stories, such as when someone, impersonating musician Oli Sykes, stabbed a teenage girl after befriending her online and arranging to meet.
Some of this online privacy stuff seems like common sense to most people, but I guess the real mystery factor lies in not being aware of exactly how the content you post online is being used.Is it being sold to corporations? Is it being used as someone’s false identity? Is it being used to tailor the ads on the YouTube videos you watch?
How do you feel about online privacy? Do you feel in control of your own content and data, or more aware of it effectively being in the public sphere once you hit that post button? Do you feel like you’ve protected yourself? Or is it something that goes by relatively unnoticed?