Some thoughts on online privacy and security

Hi there, Crackpots! I’m so happy to see everyone using the blog! This is really very exciting.

Since people have very different ideas about online privacy, anonymity, and security, and have very different “comfort levels” with these issues, I thought I should take a moment to talk a little bit about some of the factors I took into consideration when setting up this blog, so that everyone knows what’s going on and is comfortable with it, and has a chance to comment on it.

You may have noticed that we’re all identified here by our first names only, and that the various relationships between us (daughter, sister, other-in-law) aren’t explained anywhere on the site. While I wrote that we live in North Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, I didn’t say who lives where, nor did I say what cities in those states. Also, our email addresses never appear on the public side of the blog. And there are no photos (yet) of any people – only quilts.

All of these were very conscious decisions that I made in setting things up. Many people are perfectly comfortable using their full, real names and photos online (see or for good examples). Many people feel very strongly about NOT ever having their full names, identifiable photos, etc. available online, and there are very good personal-safety reasons for being somewhat paranoid about that.

I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum: while I’m not happy about identifiable photos of me online (there currently are one or two, but not many), I’m not going to go to great lengths to avoid them. Likewise, my real full name and identity are online and available for legitimate professional reasons. But there are certain more frivolous aspects of my online life that I prefer to do under a pseudonym, for similar professional reasons: I don’t necessarily want a future employer to find my goofy posts to an online forum about The West Wing, or what have you.

So what I’ve tried to do with our blog is set it up at a pretty high level of privacy and anonymity, so that everyone will be comfortable at the outset. We can work out the details as we go along (and I’m sure we’ll all be respectful of each others’ comfort levels on these issues). Some things to consider as we’re going along:

  • Be careful about using full names – I goofed and put my full name on “The Fine Print,” and Ann pointed it out to me, so I’ve changed it. It’s easy to slip!
  • Obviously, stuff like street addresses, phone numbers, etc. are right out.
  • If you want to post a photo with someone’s face in it, you might want to check with the person and see if it’s okay with them to post it. This goes for non-Crackpots too.
  • There’s considerable disagreement about posting photos of young children (infants, toddlers, etc.) online. Some parents are okay with it, some are emphatically not. I think we’ll leave this up to the parent(s) to decide what’s okay for their kids.
  • I’ve made an executive decision that our email addresses won’t appear on the public side of the blog: this is for spam prevention as much as anything.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m setting up a bunch of strict rules – mostly these are just guidelines that I’ve encountered in a lot of years of observing online conversations and communities. I want us all to be comfortable with the level of security we have with the blog, and I think we should talk about it if we have any questions or concerns. Okay? Please let me know what you think (and sorry for the epic length of this entry!)

2 Responses to “Some thoughts on online privacy and security”

  1. Marty says:

    This makes sense to me.

  2. Ann says:

    I also think Cathy’s general privacy/security policies make good sense. I slipped up early on and used the full name of my friend, Mary, in FL, but I have just gone in and edited my early post to remove it. 🙂 It was incredibly easy, and I am very proud!! The only time I can foresee when we will really want to post a photo of one of us online is when one of us has a garment to model. We can deal with that issue when it comes up.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.