Online identity and privacy

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and MyblogLog

‘Once it’s online, it stays in the public eye forever’, or so the saying goes. Not sure if this generalization is strictly accurate but in any case, for some that’s absolutely no problem: ‘I’ve got nothing to hide; I’ll just hang everything out there and it’ll be fine’. What’s all the fuss about?’ They’re quite happy to share all this and more on social networks like Facebook, even right down to the software they use through sites like Wakoopa.

Others are slightly more cautious online going under an alias and trying to keep their personal identity private to the best of their ability. Which is the right approach? I guess both really…it just depends what you are happy with.

Favicon1 I agonized over revealing my identity before I registered this domain and started blogging. I knew I wanted a consistent and unique brand identity recognizable across blogs, comments, forums and social networks, but should I use my real name? And on social networks many, many people use a photo of themselves along with their real name. Can this be okay? Yes giving your real name and photo gives an air of honesty – some people are quite happy to have their online content associated closely with their personal identity. On the other hand, there’s a suspicion that if a person hides behind an alias and an avatar which isn’t their real photo, these people will be more likely to be a nuisance on forums and in blog comments as their true identity is hidden. This may very well be the case. And I know from reading blog posts that some people won’t follow a person on Twitter if they don’t show their photo as their avatar. Fair enough. But really, all you have to do is check their profile to see what sort of fingerprint they are leaving and decide on that basis.

My real name is pretty unique and this had a bearing on my decision. A search on Google using my real name has me in third place on the first page with quite a few further occurrences on that page mostly related to my self-employed business. At the end of the day, I just wasn’t happy adding to all the info already out by using my real full identity and photograph on my blog. When you think about it, blogging and social networking are really still very much in their infancy. We’re just starting out and who knows for certain what consequences putting all this info up for everyone to see will have over the long term. Hopefully it will all be okay…but will we all live to regret it and will it all come home to haunt us?

Already it’s possible to search your name or alias using a site like keyboardr and at lightning speed, gather up masses of information from your online footprint.

So, for the time being at least, let’s just say I’m Colin from Scotland, but my handle is techandlife online. I’m happy with that and I hope that’s okay with everyone. But I’d love to hear your comments, both for and against.

Photo credit: luc legay

Further reading: Web Worker Daily: Maintaining Privacy as an Online Freelancer

Added 28th January 2009: What the web knows about you

Added 29th January 2009: The Privacy Dilemma

Added 4th August 2009: Internet Privacy – You’re Kidding, Right?

2 Responses

  1. Musings of a Housewife Says:

    It’s a very personal decision, for sure! Someone yesterday on Twitter was asking if she should change from her logo to her photo. I actually told her, in her case, that her logo is so HER that I think it’s good to keep. So it’s an individual choice.

    Still. If I’m looking thru my new followers, I am unlikely to follow someone without a photo. I just have a hard time getting an idea who I’m talking to. KWIM? That’s what I was doing yesterday, and that’s what precipitated that tweet. I realized it was a subconscious thing I was doing.

    Good article.

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