Tuesday, 13 October 2015

4 Ways You Can Protect Yourself Online

All the way back in March, an issue arose that affected almost every part of my life, both in private and online, and it seriously made me re-evaluate how I protected, or didn't protect myself and my identity online. A lot of this re-evaluating explains why I made the changes I made to Nellie and Co. in comparison to Bookish Butterflies, and still explains my Twitter and Instagram profiles are set to private and require permissions to do anything. As fun and exciting and free as the online world seems, you should always consider how much of your life you're putting online, and how protected you really are. Here's 4 ways you can protect yourself online, and why I wish I had done so myself.


1. Don't Plaster Your Full Name Everywhere


When I first started blogging, I never for one moment considered not sharing my name with everyone - after all, it's always nice to know who the hell is doing all the biz behind the blog, but I seriously regret that I shared not only my full name, but I shared it everywhere.. After suffering from privacy issues on social media, it horrified me not only how easily people managed to find me through my name, but also how many people actually knew my complete name, and what they could find out about me through social media past and present, through google searches, even through my email addresses, and it quite frankly scared me half to death. I couldn't believe how little I'd considered my own protection online, and vowed to sort that out pronto.

With the help of Cuddlebuggery's series of posts on protecting yourself online, I managed to check out what information about me was accessible to people with my email address or my full name, and thankfully, there wasn't that much information to be found, yet I was still pretty terrified that it was possible to get that much information just from something so simple as a name. It's part the reason I don't have my full name on Google+ anymore, and it's also half the reason I only appear as 'Amanda' or 'Amanda G' on social media - it's too late to retract my name online, but I can limit what I'm known by.

If you're planning on being active online, and having a blog doesn't get anymore active, either consider whether you want to share your name at all, and if you do, how much of it you share. Zoey from Uncreatively Zoey, isn't actually called Zoey, but she's adopted the name whilst she's online, and I wouldn't dare judge her for protecting herself - in fact, I'm so glad she decided it was the best thing for her to do. If I were to turn back time, I wouldn't share my surname with anyone, not even publishers, because they don't need to know, and they don't deserve to know, and quite frankly, it's none of their business, and I'd decrease the amount of places I shared my name. I'd consider how many times I handed out my full name for giveaways. I'd considered how many people I've introduced myself with my full name to when I could have just said 'Amanda'. I would consider how important my name is, and how much damage somebody could do with my full name in this day and age online. It's something you should seriously consider too.

2. Is A Giveaway Worth Sharing Your Address For?


I've entered a lot of giveaways in my time as a blogger, and on most occasions, I've had to hand out my address. I REGRET THIS HUGELY. I live at home with my Mum, and never once did I consider the danger I was putting her and myself before the #HaleNo stalking situation (more of which you can check out through this post). I started to consider how many people I'd given my address too, and the worst thing possible happened. I didn't have an answer. I didn't have a number. I couldn't even remember who had my address, who I may have given it to, who I'd spoken to, who I'd traded books with, won books from, what publishers may have had me on their list. There were people with my address that I couldn't account for, and that terrified me.

Now I don't hand out my address so easily, nor do I do it so willingly. I now make clear to everyone who receives my address that they must delete all my details and our conversation once the deal has been made, as is the same with myself - I don't keep hold of anyones details, and I don't expect anyone to keep hold of mine, but accounts get hacked, details get shared, information gets put in the wrong hands, and people get hurt, and #HaleNo was a harsh way to learn this lesson.

I enter very few giveaways now. I only enter giveaways from people I trust and have spoken to, people I'm friends with and have regular contact with, or I know have been trusted with other peoples details before. Where possible, I will enter giveaway for prizes that require my address, that only require emails, and I'll give them back-up email addresses that are used as extras - I avoid giving my address out now where possible, and for something so private that's such a safe haven, I would advise you consider doing the same.

3. Don't 'Sign Up' To Things With The Same Email Address


When I was a Facebook 'gamer' I created around 3-4 different profiles, all pretend people with pretend names with pretend backgrounds, and used them to play those games. I never spoke to anybody with these different profiles, they were always created to the sole purpose of getting me through levels I needed peoples help with, or to send me lives, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I'd ever made. Why? I had 3-4 different email addresses, created in order to create Facebook profiles, at my disposal.

If you were to check out my Twitter details, you'd see the email I'm signed up to them with is not the same as my Google address, nor my Outlook address, nor Goodreads. Pinterest, Instagram and many other social sites I'm signed up to or with use one of the emails created for these fake gaming profiles, and it's enabled me to keep myself a lot more protected online than I ever thought it would.

My social media email addresses are usually one of two, and yet they are not at all related to my private emails or sites I use to talk to family and close friends - better still, the passwords are different too, and I think this is super important. As much as I like being online, I don't want my private life, my private emails, my private details to become accessible to people I know and speak to online, and using different emails and passwords for different aspects of my life keeps me safe and makes me feel even safer. If somebody decides they want to have a pop at me, you won't find any personal information (phone number, home address, personal details etc.) through any of my social accounts. If somebody decided they want to ruin my career, they'd have to sift through 3-4 email addresses on top of the two I have for myself, alongside trying various passwords. As complicated as my system is, it protects me from people who can, will, and do want to hurt people, and I would always recommend having one or two spare email addresses for these situations. That and getting spammed with newsletters is always sucky, ugh.

4. A Picture Says a Thousand Words, As Does Your Face


Interestingly, while I've been foolish enough to share my name all over the show and hand out my address like nobody's business, the only person I've ever shared photos of on any of my blogs has been myself. I've never shared photos of my Mum with me, although we spend a lot of time together, and I've never shared with you my fabulous bestie a) because she requested I didn't, and b) because it's a scary world, and people are cruel.

As exciting as it can be sharing my adventures and fun activities with other people, the internet is a dangerous place to be putting any information on it, but putting your face alongside that information can be even worse. Some bloggers share a lot about their family and friends, images of them out together, having a fun family day, and it's image like that that can turn nasty very quickly. I see children being featured on blogs, I see people's houses, their road names, their letterboxes and door numbers, I see people going to events close to home, I see people telling me where they're going, where they're going to be, and it scares me. One image can cause the same amount of damage as handing out your address or your full name, and a lot of people aren't aware of those dangers. When you're sharing images of yourself, be careful, but when sharing others, be aware that you're putting their life in your hands, and that's a lot of responsibility.

Do You Protect Yourself Online? If So, How?

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for bringing this up. This is such an important topic. I find myself cringing sometimes at the things people will share on Twitter. I do wish that I didn't use my real name. That is such a smart idea. I do feel like at this point it's probably too late to take that route. I do, however, restrict what I post online. I don't have my last name anywhere, nor do I mention where I live within Canada. I had a situation which made me feel really uncomfortable, and I am so thankful I have certain things private. There are scary people out there and you really have no idea who is reading about you. I think the internet makes us feel sort of disconnected in a way and we forget these things. You have such a great point about giveaways. I really haven't thought about it before. I'm definitely going to be more restrictive now, though. Thankfully I've only won one giveaway and it was with someone I trust. Anyways, GREAT post! I'm bookmarking this for sure.

    Sarah @ The Reading Petal

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    1. I regret using my name, and if not my name, using my full name when I first started out blogging. You're right though Sarah, the internet has this odd enticing nature that encourages you to share more than you should, and it's scary.Thank you very much for the kind words, much appreciated! :)

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  2. Privacy has been bothering me a great deal lately, with the stories about how social media sites can find my exact location and so forth. Obviously Harvey Richards isn't my real name (in hindsight I'm wishing I'd chosen a better name for myself!), and I've tried only to really give my address to publishers e.t.c. It's that type of thing that has made me reconsider using Mailchimp - I don't want everyone who signs up to my blog to be able to see my home address as soon as they enter their email... that type of thing does worry me.
    I think it's easy to forget how the information we give out online could come back and haunt us... this post has made me head over to Facebook and delete my account - I hardly ever used it. Great post!

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    1. I've always been twitchy about how social media sites want to know where I am and how dangerous that is, it's not good for people who want to stay low. I know with Mailchimp, you don't need to use your address, but you do need a address, so you could use a P.O. Box, or like I have, spoken to family and friends and agreed on using one of their addresses instead so as to protect myself a little further. Thank you for enjoying it Harvey! P.S - I quite like the name, very British ;)

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  3. I have never used my full name in blogging. I don't even use my full name on Facebook, because I like to keep a little privacy. I don't mind sharing my face and (with approval) some pictures of the people around me on Instagram. I don't spread it around the web, but at the same time I don't want to hide. I want to show people HEY, this is who I am :) This is the person you are talking with.

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    1. I totally understand about wanting to share yourself with the world, it's hard not to want to when you're a blogger, but you're totally great to be making sure you only share others if they want to be! :)

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  4. Hmm, I agree with a lot of this but I also find it very difficult to connect to a blogger who never shares pictures or never has a name. Idek? Maybe that's just me? I, personally, wish I'd taken a pseudonym when I started blogging, not for safety reasons, but because I wish I had that separation from ME and my INTERNET life. Because when one gets hate or something or nasty comments it's nice to ... like have a reason to separate yourself? You know...that's not solely me, that's my internet name. I REALLY wished this when I had my twitter stolen. Like someone copied my profile, stole my pictures, ALL OF THAT. it got taken down eventually, but who knows who else is doing that??!

    I think safety depends on the blogger for sure. *nods* And what they've experienced and stuff. Like my twitter would be useless for the kind of networking I do if it was private. And publishers in Australia must have last names. BUT YEAH. SAFETY THO. That Hale thing is the most disturbing thing of the universe. Now I'm gonna go see how much of my full name is online. xD

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    1. Aw Cait, you shouldn't take things to heart anyway. YOU'RE AWESOME. Don't let people change your perspective of yourself. I do think it's wise to humanise yourself, share bits, share photos and a name, but it's worth being picky on what you share, if only to protect yourself in the long run, you know? :)

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  5. I'm pretty lucky when it comes to names because my name is pretty common. When I looked it up, many, many people came up. I'm also pretty picky about how much info I put online. Also I'm picky about which pictures I share online. Great post.

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    1. Thanks Lisa! Its always worth being careful on photos and such - people can easily steal them, and therefore, steal you and your information, and that's scary. It's lucky when you have a common name too! :)

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  6. When I decided to write under my real name, I knew I would be opening myself up to privacy invasions and had to come to terms with how much I would give up. I'm not as thorough as you, for sure, but I'm careful about turning off Location Services in places where I'm currently broadcasting from on my phone. I use a few different email addresses but I only have one Facebook account (why? because having more than one goes against the FB Terms of Service and the moment someone tattles on you, it all goes away, which would be bad for business). Although I've seen stalking happen to other authors, I have decided to not live my life in fear. I do enough to protect the usual information and then just live.

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    1. I definitely understand the Facebook thing, that would sucky for business. Turning off locations is a must for me, and I fail to understand why so many apps want to know, sounds odd to me.. I think that's a good way to live though, protect what you must, live for the rest :)

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