The EdublogsClub prompt this week is privacy. It’s a really interesting topic. I consider myself tech-savvy and quite clued up about OpSec. I am also aware that malicious people are always able to work around most security systems. Realistically, they could be a threat to me but I weighed it all up when I decided to have an online presence. I consider myself too low profile to be a desirable target, though I appreciate that if I am compromised that it will probably be a random attack. It’s a worry. But I worry more about vulnerable people on the internet.
I wish I could offer some type of advice or a safeguard. There are plenty of sites that offer hints and tips to stay safe. But there will always be people who exploit someone’s weakness. What can you do? I think the only way to be completely safe is to not have an online presence, or have a private/anonymous online presence. I do have moments when, for whatever reason, I delete/deactivate my online accounts – I understand my digital footprint still exists. I have also experimented with private social media accounts in the past – although they had their good points, they reduced my levels of engagement with other folk.
I have three main fears relating to my online presence:
- Money being stolen
- Indentity theft
- Trolling / stalking / other abuse
Money being stolen
Due to being on a casual contract, I rarely have much money anyway. And I had money stolen from me ten years ago – though that was because my card was skimmed/cloned in real-life. The transactions did happen online. Luckily a big transaction was blocked by my bank. However, a small transaction of £20-£30 happened (I don’t remember the details). Someone bought a ticket from a very well known cheap flight provider. I tried to contact them to cancel it but they wouldn’t talk to me because I didn’t have the relevant data protection details – I explained that I could prove the card that bought the flight was mine, but that wasn’t enough. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be able to cancel the ticket. I just wanted to try.
I haven’t registered by bank card online and I only buy/purchase from six different websites. Not that this makes me feel secure, it just gives me a sense of control.
I fragment parts of my identity online. Often using pseudonyms, abbreviations and variations of my name. I know a phisher could put these fragments together. But then, decades ago, someone rummaging through the bins in your house could do this. When it comes to social media I have indentities that people who know me can recognise as me, however if they were to search for me using my real name they may not necessarily be able to find me (they’d have to search via my professional networks). On websites such as Facebook or LinkedIn I have incomplete profiles, this is because the amount of information they ask from me is more than I feel comfortable giving. If people were to hack into my social media accounts, the worst they could do is impersonate me and harass my friends/family. My networks are so small that I feel confident I’d be able to contact everyone and explain that it’s not me they are talking to.
There is so much to unpack on this subject. Sometimes it feels like the mere act of existing and having an opinion makes someone a target for abuse. I have mentioned previously that I’d like to write more about politics and society, but these are subjects where there are people who have very polarised opinions. I also think that if you write well and get a large following you will then attract trolls. It’s sad.
I made a conscious decision to write openly and honestly a few years ago. Admittedly, there are areas of my life I don’t write about online – I decided I do not want to share them. However, also as someone who experiences mental health difficulties I felt for a long time that I had no outlet for my feelings. I had private paper journals but sometimes I want to interact with others. I have received abuse in the past; people told me I should stop being so self-absorbed; I should get over my depression and I should stop over-thinking things. I then made private blogs and social media accounts – however, it had the same impact as talking to myself (which is what I was doing, only in an online space).
When I started getting more involved in mental health communities, I realised that there really is no shame in talking about it. So I did. I noticed the way some people responded. Some people thought I was over-sharing, some felt uncomfortable, some commented that I’d not be able to get a good job because employers would search for me and see I wrote about how unstable I am and some thought I was seeking attention. It felt awkward for a while. When I stood in the last by-election I made most of my blog private. Because my mind still felt shame about my mental health, and I wanted to hide that from the electorate.
So, really, why do I share? Because I now know I am not the only person who feels this way. I believe the first step to getting healthier is admitting when I am ill. And not being ashamed of being ill.
Is it worth it?
So, is it worth putting yourself out there? That really depends on how you feel. The only thing I would suggest is to try to educate yourself, and your loved ones, about online threats.