Your Role in Privacy

I’ve been reading through the latest news post on Livejournal, and have been getting more and more frustrated by the comments. Even with the Fix-To-Come™, there’s this uproar about public comments still being cross-posted against the journal owner’s wishes, and how LJ is violating a journal owner’s privacy by doing this. One post I read called this something like the worst privacy violation in history.

At Livejournal. At Facebook. At MySpace. Throughout the Internet. The person who is responsible for protecting your privacy is YOU.

First and foremost, don’t talk about something publically that isn’t public information. Don’t believe you’re protected by hiding under a pseudonym; that’s like locking your door and leaving the key under the doormat. It is false protection.

If you don’t want your real world identity connected to an online identity, scrub, scrub, scrub. Ensure your privacy settings are correct. Go to your profile and hide every way someone can connect to you. Screen all comments, and don’t approve those that make any personal references. If a user cross-posts a comment, ban them immediately from your journal. Make that policy clear in your profile and at the bottom of every post.

LJ may provide options, but it is humans that exercise those options. If you are reading the journal of someone that is obviously trying to disconnect from the real world, respect that wish. Don’t rebroadcast the comments you make there.

In traffic safety, they talk about the four “E”s: Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Emergency Trauma Services. They apply in Computer Security as well. Live them. Understand them. Even if LJ did everything correctly, there would still be privacy risks. Educate yourself about what you are exposing, and what choices you are making. Have policies regarding privacy, and ruthlessly enforce them. Lastly, have a plan in place for what you would do if your idenities got connected, for in this world of data mining and everything being accessible, that possibility always exists. Remember: If your secret—whatever it is—is too sensitive to ever be exposed, then don’t post it on the Internet.

Remember your role in protecting your privacy.