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Big Brother, Government, Corporations, and Perverts May Be Reading Your Blog

Business Week brought up an interesting point recently in Big Brother Is Reading Your Blog and I thought I’d ask you want you think about this and if it worries you.

It’s not just the prospect of predators and swindlers that has the social-network set alarmed. University officials and campus cops are scouring blogs and sites for tips on underage drinking and other student misbehavior. Corporations are investing in text-recognition software from vendors such as SAP (SAP) and IBM (IBM) to monitor blogs by employees and job candidates.

In response, users of social sites have come up with a host of creative ways to evade what they consider threats to safety or privacy. Sullivan, like many others, opted for a different site. Others are resorting to fictionalized or disguised entries, and many are stepping up use of features and software aimed at protecting privacy…

…The desire for beefed-up Net armor is giving rise to new social-networking software products and services. Roger Sullivan, vice-president of the Liberty Alliance Management Board, a digital-identity industry consortium of 150 companies including Oracle (ORCL) and Time Warner’s (TWX) America Online, says some member companies plan to use software that enables users’ personal Web pages to display different information depending on who is viewing them.

Another effort focuses on authentication services. The idea is to create a service that would help people you contact online know you are who you say you are, says Sullivan. Social-networking sites “open us up to identity theft and privacy issues like never before,” he observes. Fortunately, there’s a host of solutions to help the growing ranks of social networkers cope with the risks.

What do you think about this? Blogging has been a free form sharing platform for any and all topics, permitting a form of freedom of speech never seen in the world’s history. Many bloggers have figured out how to blog fairly anonymously, letting their opinion speak for itself, but to know that governments and corporations, possibly even your employer, is monitoring what you blog, how do you feel about that? Creeps I expect. Perverts come with everything. But governments and corporations spending money to watch what you write…? What do you think?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen


  1. Dan
    Posted March 17, 2006 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    It’s naive to think that what we blog won’t have consequences, good or bad. Just as executives at various companies have discovered, electronic communication seems to take on a life of its own once it’s sent or posted. Emails that are supposedly “private” can be requested by courts and made public. Students have found that myspace and facebook have broader audiences than their peers–but it is online, and the Internet *is* a public place. What this means to me is that I need to give some thought to what I write–will I be pleased to have these thoughts at this moment available to the world 6 months from now, a year, 10 years–because it can surface through an archive or someone else’s blog. There are private places to write; they are called diaries and journals, and people have used them for centuries to record thoughts and emotions that didn’t necessarily need public venting.

  2. Posted March 17, 2006 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I tend to agree with Dan. I don’t see how the examples listed in Business Week are a violation of anyone’s privacy. If you participate in a public website or service, use your real name, voluntarily release your age, address and other personal information (as the 14-year-old Myspace blogger did) or if you participate in an ‘I rushed the field’ group post, how is it an invasion of privacy for someone to gather that information. These sites are public. Blogging is a public dissemination of information by definition.

    I have a problem with companies trying to get information that people have taken steps to keep private (i.e. getting the names and addresses that are linked to email accounts or blog service accounts where the person has not made such information publicly available). But, collecting information that people have voluntarily published on an international forum?

    I do think people, especially minors, need to be educated about the risks of putting to much identifiable information out for anyone to find.

  3. Posted March 17, 2006 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    What about the idea that companies are spending a LOT of money monitoring and tracking blogs, that cost gets rolled into what you buy? Should companies be putting so much time, money, energy, and employees into policing blogs? What do you think?

    And what about the rise in targeted web browsing. Do you want the company to know enough about you that they will change the content and look of their web pages just for you? Google is working on profiling search engine results, and web page profiling, as mentioned in the article above, is in the works. What do you think about that?

  4. Dan
    Posted March 17, 2006 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I guess it depends on why they are policing–if its part of their efforts to learn more about potential hires and to learn how they are being represented in public documents, it seems reasonable that they put *some* resources into that. I teach college, and the time may come when I start reading what students have to say about me at (or whatever the site is called); potential students are reading about me, and it’s probably good for me to know what they have to say. And as we hire new faculty, I think it’s reasonable for those doing the hiring to check out such sites to see what students have to say about their teaching (it’s the one area that’s hard to gauge in an interview). And, if I’m blogging about my university or department, it makes sense that someone up the line might want to read what I’m saying and how it reflects on the university. For one thing, I think they have a right to control whether I use their resources to publish something that reflects poorly on them. I’m sure corporations monitor what shows up in newspapers and magazines; this is an extension of that.

    As for targeted browsing: I’m reminded of “Minority Report”; Tom Cruise’s character gets targeted ads as he goes through public places–technology reads his retina (or something like that), and the billboards address him by name and so forth. *That’s* creepy.

    I don’t mind targeted browsing if its based on information I have freely provided. For example, I’ve got Google set so that my search results are based on previous searches I’ve done. That doesn’t bother me because I’ve requested the service; similarly, I set preferences in Google to filter out objectionable content from search results–my choice. I also see ads on some sites that are based on my zip code–I get ads related to Alabama because in registering with that site, I provided my zip. If I have less junk to sift through to find what I’m after, I’m okay with that. As long as the sifting is done because I chose to provide information.

  5. Posted March 17, 2006 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I could’ve told you about the perverts. That’s in the top 3 most popular pages I’ve ever put up.

    Email you write at work is not private. It’s corporate property if it’s on their system and it’s theft if you’re using Hotmail or something on company time or equipment. I’ve sat next to enough jerk-wads in the last 7 years who spent 1/3-1/2 of their paid time surfing to know that big companies are necessarily going to be striking back wherever possible and it’s hard to take sides if everyone involved is in the wrong.

  6. Posted March 18, 2006 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Ok, so someone sets up a blog. Posts their thoughts on it for people to read, on the Internet. Openly, available for all. So, where does the privacy part come in? If someone doesn’t want others to be able to use it against them, they shouldn’t be telling people about it. Dur.

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