Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dangerous Games

Le Basier,
William Adolphe Bouguereau,
oil on canvas, 1863.

Warning: the following post contains mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.

On the other hand, those who might most resent this post will probably never see it.

If people knew what was out there hunting them, they would never leave the house.

Maybe I've been watching too much CSI lately - but for a long time I've been a little bothered when I come across people who innocently post current pictures of their small and beautiful children on their blogs.

When we moved from the Big City to a Small Town, a new acquaintance told me, "It's not that we don't have the same perverts here, but in a small town we usually know who they are."

When people begin to blog they are aware that blogland is a very big city. Eventually they develop a sense of community, a sense of neighbourhood, a sense of small town, and thus forget they still live in the big city. A very big city with a high complement of perverts and stalkers. At least, according to anecdote.

And they fail to recognize how meticulous and obsessed a devoted pervert can be, once they have fixated on a particular image. And how easy it is to cross-reference detail to deduce personal information.

Recently, I chanced upon a meme which invited one to post - in the interest of developing fun pseudo names - combination items like the name of first pet and current street name; middle name and city where you were born; first three letters of mother's/father's name, etc., etc.

If nothing else, a gift to an identity thief. I think you can figure out how. I sometimes wonder just who makes up these memes.

Perhaps I'm excessively paranoid.

Nevertheless, discretion is advised.


Ric said...

Like not using your mother's maiden name as a password?

Good post, Bernita. and the analogy is correct. we tend to forget how many people have access to these blogs. or what their intentions might be....

spyscribbler said...

So true! When I first started writing, we HAD to take a pseudonym. Not because of Harlequin-like control, but just for our protection and privacy.

My pseudonym has an old article on her site about online dating and general online safety. Most of it would be laughed away, these days. Still. I feel naked just having my real name on the internet! It's just not how I was brought up, LOL.

Jaye Wells said...

A blog isn't a diary that you hide under your mattress. You're far better to think of it as a full page ad in the NYT.

Bernita said...

A type of password some companies demand, Ric.
A little genealogical research and voila.

It's difficult, SS.

And never forget it.
And there are those who may see such as an invitation, Jaye.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

When I started this blogging thing a few years back, my husband had one request:

NO PICTURES. To be honest, what he said was that he didn't want some guy jacking off on my phote from the internet.

I'd never post pics of my kids and I must admit I'm shocked when I see others doing so.

Only in the past year has my real name been linked up with my blog (via my magazine). Now, when you google my real name, you get Sex Scenes first. Heh.

But, on the other hand, anonymity has taught me to be more of who I really am, and gradually exposing myself, real name intact, has been a big part of my growth process.

Bernita said...

some guy jacking off on a photo.
An extra point I meant to mention, SS. Thank you.

Hee, I suppose the gradual revelation must feel something like a strip show.
Not being anonymous, to me it feels more like putting them on.

Dave said...

I'm with Bernita on this. There are too many opportunities for bad people to do bad things with all that information.

Where I used to work had strict policies about internet surfing and a restrictive URL minder. Many things were blocked. HOWEVER, the porn addicts discovered that radio stations did "Babe of the Day." They talked silly women into taking "bikini" pictures and having them posted on the radio stations website. The security technicians at work used to see 30 and 40 of these websites in a list and knew that they had a pervert doing the heavy breathing act to "semi-porn".

Tell your kids to be modest online. Be Discreet.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Dave.
Many people think the "Peeping Tom" is basically harmless too - not realizing that the behaviour often escalates.
Internet peeps are neither harmless nor stupid.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice. When I first went online I was surprised at how many young folks "volunteered" personal information about themselves that could easily make them vulnerable. Scary.

Gabriele C. said...

I don't use my real name online and I won't post pics of family members. Though I've posted some of me - and if someone jacks off at me posing in chain mail, well, more fun to him. Or her. :)

As long as I don't know about it.

Bernita said...

Reasonable precautions, Gabriele.
It's said that vulnerable body posture attracts certain types like flies, and except for the S&M/Dom/sub types, that chain mail shot with the Don't-even-think-about-it-or-I'll-cut-your-nuts-out attitude should be an added deterrent.
Love that photo.

Bernita said...

Very scary, Charles.
And not just kids, either.
Adults may get comfortable, forget about lurkers, and sometimes reveal too much.

writtenwyrdd said...

I find it strange that people forget anyone can google them and read what they post. I do say probably more personal stuff than I should; but I try to keep the really identifying stuff off of public venues. I do not plan to ever have a picture of myself on the blog.

But the children pictures really bother me.

Anonymous said...

I think I did that one....pretty sure I used only my pen name for all the info though...and I've moved since then...

There is no way in hell I'd ever post a pic of The Boy.

Further thoughts: I had my credit card jacked at an ebook store once, and MC let the bastards change my mailing address. They have yet to give me an acceptable reply as to how the hacker got past security to change my address. Especially considering the card I used was in The Man's name and had his info as security. So I called with a friend's card and gave a BS story about leaving my abusive hubby and blah blah blah. They were prepared to let me do anything to the account.

There is absolutely no such thing as security anymore.

The Anti-Wife said...

I have pictures on my blog, but it's just me, my dogs and a soon to be famous author. I would never put pictures of children or any really personal information on there. Jaye's right. It's just a full page ad for wierdos. This is also why I use a pseudonym - that and hiding from my family.

raine said...

Perhaps I'm excessively paranoid.

I'm not sure that's possible anymore.

Bernita said...

People just don't realize, Written, that the parameters have widened.
We all reveal more than we realize.

That's a chilling account, Seeley.

Enough to make one consider an alternative identity, AW.

Bernita said...

Eh, Raine!
But we don't have to make it easy for creeps.

~Nancy said...

Perhaps I'm excessively paranoid.

Not necessarily.

Although that doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Seriously, though, I think you have a good reason to be paranoid about this. I can't tell you how many times I've heard on the radio on my ride into work about teenagers telling (and showing!) all on MySpace, and the predators on the prowl there (usually ending, unfortunately, in something horrible happening to said teenager).

Although I now use my full name about the Net, that's where it ends; the only other thing I list is that I live somewhere in New Jersey. It's something I've had to impress upon my husband, because I don't think he really realized how that can come back to haunt you or, at the least, humiliate you. (That last is especially not good in his current state. But I digress.)

A good and pertinent subject, Bernita.


~Nancy said...

My pseudonym has an old article on her site about online dating and general online safety.


A woman was stabbed just last week in the small town I live in (which really freaked me, as it was only a couple of blocks away from my house). The rumor is that it was a case of online dating gone wrong.

I still think it's a good thing to reminded about safety on the Web.

writtenwyrdd said...

I've heard that people are intercepted at the border who are planning to go meet their internet sweethearts. The thing that creeps me out is that I've heard sometimes it is underaged kids who are runaways. Fortunate for them they get intercepted before it's too late. And if it's an adult, is the person they are meeting adult too?


sex scenes at starbucks said...

ick, myspace creeps me out. I do have a provocative (tongue-in-cheek, as far as I'm concerned) photo from the back of me on there. I got tons of email from guys who live NEAR me--in the same town, even.


I really should go delete that account.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jersey Girl.
I hope my personal details have been equally prident.
That meme was particularly dangerous, I thought.

Yes, WW, some predators are willing to go great distances.

Jon M said...

I made a conscious decision not to include pictures of my children and to refer to them using other names. I'm not entirely sure why but it was certainly for some of the reasons you've included.

Bernita said...

Near you?
Probably you should, SS.
Alluring is a nice word. Lure is not.

Bernita said...

Look at it this way, Jon - you are the keeper of their privacy and their first protection.
Wise man.

Jeff said...

I totally agree, Bernita. Safety first.

Rob said...

For privacy, I mainly worry about posting things on the Internet that I wouldn't want a current or future employer seeing. Once something is on the Internet, it's basically here for good, even if you try to remove it.

As far as posting photos of your children, I feel as long as you take minor precautions it will be fine. I don't see anything wrong with posting the occasional photo to Flickr or a weblog.

Pedophiles are opportunistic. They've got many, many children around them already. Statistically, you should be a lot more worried about the kids' uncles. If they aren't on chat lines setting meeting dates with strangers, they're pretty much safe.

Identity theft is a very real issue, but stalking perverts from the Internet who you've had no communications with just seems like media-induced paranoia.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jeff.

Writers who blog partly as a promotional tool are in a conundrum about this, Rob.
I take it you are male from your name. You might be surprised to learn how frequently females are approached by internet creeps.
Basic precautions about personal facts prevents escalation of intent.

spyscribbler said...

"But, on the other hand, anonymity has taught me to be more of who I really am, and gradually exposing myself, real name intact, has been a big part of my growth process."

Wow, Sex Scenes, that is so true.

takoda said...

It freaks me out, also, when people post pictures of their children.

I think I'm relatively easy to find, and I wrestle with that. But if I try to hide too much, my obsessive tendencies would take over. I don't want to be looking over my shoulder all the time, but I do want to be careful. It's a tough balance. I may end up taking my email and web page info off my blog. Who knows.....

LadyBronco said...

As someone who was the victim of identity theft, I firmly believe paranoia is healthy and completely called for nowadays.

Rob said...

I realise how often females are approached on the Internet, but it's a different form of creep doing it, and they're relatively harmless if ignored completely.

I do agree with your view of that meme, it was extremely dodgy. Steps to protect your personal information should definitely be taken, but the threat is identity theft and not stalkers, as far as I'm concerned.

I can fully understand someone not posting photos of themselves or their children on the Internet because they don't like the idea of perverts viewing them. That could very easily happen. While it doesn't harm anyone, it's certainly creepy to consider it happening.

I just get wary when people begin to fear what is essentially a non-existent threat. It's like someone in a small USA farming town fearing terrorists and building bomb shelters. Initially it may not seem like a big deal, until politicians start to use that fear to pass bills that take away people's freedom under the guise of protecting them. Being over-paranoid about something may not seem like a problem at first, but I think it's safer to be realistic.

Bernita said...

Let common sense rule, Chris.Like everything else, balance is the key.

A horrible experience, Lady B.

People themselves often demand that sort of legislation, Rob, so one cannot blame the officials entirely.

Ello said...

Hi Bernita,
My avatar is a picture of my daughter but with her face hidden. For the reasons mentioned here, I didn't want a picture with my kids faces anywhere on the internet so I picked one that I thought was cute but as you can see, her face is covered. I felt comfortable with it until reading this post. Now I wonder if I shouldn't change it.

With regards to the meme, I know that there have been alot of scams with these meme's that are sent out innocently enough on the senders part, because they don't realize the intent behind the creation of some of them. They are innocent ways of eliciting information that could help perpetrate identity theft. So I applaud you for raising this issue.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ello.
I should emphasize that those who were passing on this meme were doing so in all innocence.
The potential for abuse just never occurred to them.