Archive for the ‘privacy’ category

Bing is following nofollow

August 9th, 2009

According to this post on webpronews, Bing has a bug and is currently indexing material the is rel=nofollow, rel=noindex. Many people in fandom on services like LiveJournal turn those commands on to give themselves a bit more privacy with their public posts by trying to minimize their visibility in search engines. If that is you, and you’re counting on the major search engines to protect your privacy, consider friends locking all the problematic posts on LiveJournal. This way, your privacy is a bit more protected and you run less risk of people you don’t want finding certain content from finding it. Yes, Bing will fix this problem but in the mean time, take it as another wake up call to better protect your online privacy. Dear WebUpon, Not a threat

May 23rd, 2009

This morning, I was reading WebUpon’s article about I think the author is a little bit paranoid.

If you haven’t heard of, they are domain registrar. They have a wiki, which is described as follows:

Welcome to WikiName, the name encyclopedia that you can edit. It’s all about names – name meanings, name origins, name variants – you name it. We’ve got information about baby names, brand names, and all kinds of names. Currently, we’re even compiling a list of every name in the world! This free name resource is powered, inspired and maintained by the community friendly domain registrar, Please join our effort by writing about a name subject not yet covered, or adding to an existing article. Muchas gracias.

They have about 9,854 content pages and 4,429,633 total pages. That’s a lot of people potentially swept up in that wiki. The WebUpon article characterizes it as follows:

It’s sounds great doesn’t? Not so fast, because if you have ever published, blogged or used your name on the internet, it could be dangerous for you career wise. If there is only one listing for your name, it may also list your city and age, especially if you have google adsense or are listed on They offer the name for purchase as a domain; all for the low cost of $8.99.

This is just a bit too paranoid. Name.Com is a domain registrar. You’ve always been able to buy domains related to your name since domain names first became available. People have always been able to buy yours. I don’t particularly see what Name.Com is doing as unethical in this regards.

As for the information about you that might end up on a wiki article like Bob Smith? Name.Com’s bot that generates these wiki articles is pulling up only publicly available information. At first glance, this appears to almost be just a wiki version of Pipl, a people search engine. It has similar aggregate data like links to LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networking sites. The only major difference that I can see is that you can edit the page which has your name and there are advertisements to buy domain names that relate to your name on said article.

Concern about pedophiles hijacking your name and ruining it are one thing, but doesn’t facilitate it. It is just one more site where you need to monitor for the sake of your online reputation. doesn’t change the picture at all. This type of content has been around for a few years now. The searchability of your name has been around for years. If you’re that concerned about pedophiles using your name and killing your career, monitor the Pipl search, the page, set up google alerts. It is up to you to protect your privacy by not giving sites like that information to begin with through online posting.

Fandom privacy: Your journal entries are not private

April 12th, 2009

Some parts of fandom treat LiveJournal, InsaneJournal and other public postings on journaling sites as private content. The rational is that this public content is published online for a small select audience, for a group of friends, intended only to stay inside a specific fannish community. When that public information gets shared in public, people can sometimes get really huffy. Witness the most recent case involving coffeeandink during Race Fail 2009.

Sometimes, we need a really good reminder that what you put out there in public, even if it is shared in the context of the fan community, is public. Today’s reminder comes from a court ruling involving MySpace. WebProNews summarizes it as follows:

A California court has ruled that a high school principal who sent a copy of a MySpace journal posting to a local newspaper is not liable for invasion of privacy.

The court ruled that Moreno gave up any claims of privacy when she posted the writing on MySpace. “Cynthia’s affirmative act made her article available to any person with a computer and thus opened it to the public eye,” the court said. “Under these circumstances, no reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy regarding the published material.”

So when you’re posting online, in fandom or not, always remember that content posted publicly is not a violation of privacy and take appropriate steps to protect yourself.

Help:Real name deletion

March 16th, 2009

We already have general policy of no private information on the wiki and a pretty good article deletion policy. We’re looking to implement a more formalized policy regarding the removal (and addition) of real names on the wiki. A copy of our draft of the real name deletion policy is here. We would love people to give us feedback on this policy, either in the comments here or on the talk page of that article. Let us know your feelings, what advice you have, what you would like to see implemented.

On privacy, blogging, and hazardous misconceptions

February 16th, 2009

Today’s blog isn’t so much directly about fandom, but the ways in which I’ve recently seen a number of people (inside and outside of fandom) completely miss the boat on the way the internet works–in particular on issues of etiquette and privacy.

Unfortunately, there is no one “bible” on internet etiquette out there to follow; no international rules and regulations beyond those that evolve within the community of internet users through the years. But some of these things really shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out if you are at all familiar with technology and net culture–and have some small amount of common sense about you. They are also things which are worth contemplating from time to time, to determine if your personal expectations of privacy and etiquette can really be automatically expected to be followed by others–or are completely off the mark.

Public postings are exactly that: PUBLIC.

Sure, you can deter robots from spidering through your blog, livejournal, or website. But that doesn’t mean someone you didn’t “intend” to find your rantings about your evil housemates, your boss, or your pornographic Harry Potter fiction isn’t going to stumble upon it in some other fashion. Unless you lock them down through password protection, “friends lock” or other methods, your words, images and actions that you’ve chosen to share on the internet are there for anyone to see, read, and potentially respond to.

Indeed, some of the things people do that they think “protect” themselves may serve as only a greater incentive for the “wrong” audience to want to read on. Putting up a giant post-dated post or header on your blog proclaiming “THIS SITE IS FOR MY FRIENDS ONLY!” without actively locking it down as such? May only be more incentive for the nosy to click away. It’s like leaving an unlocked, hand-written diary out on a coffee table in a house you share with others. Maybe some people will be “polite” enough to ignore it’s there and not open it. But even if you put a sticky note on it saying “DO NOT OPEN”, you’re not doing all you should to guard your privacy.

Linking happens. Deal with it.

One of the primary features of the World Wide Web, since its earliest days, was The Link. An American webpage on, say, Pink Floyd might lead you to another website in Holland featuring a F.A.Q. about the band or discography; it might include a list of mailing lists around the world you could subscribe to to discuss the band; a directory of fan sites for other classic rock bands. A fan-fiction archive for Star Wars might include a “link page” where you could find more Star Wars fiction, information sites about the movies, etc.

Yet linking seems to remain one of those things people can get irrationally weird and protective about. Even while linking has long been one of the easiest and most direct ways for people within a specific community or sharing a common interest could find each other, some people get strangely obsessive over who does and doesn’t link to their sites and whether permission is required to do so. These people don’t seem to understand that linking does not equal stealing content, which is another matter entirely. In fandom, this has often come up in terms of fiction rec lists or sites such as FanWorksFinder–and critical reviews as well. Some have raised objections if their stories were included in a review that was less-than-favorable, claiming it to be “stealing their content”. But a story link is different from, say, taking an entire story out of an archive and publishing it on your own site without asking the author’s permission first (unless the author has given clear, blanket permission to “archive anywhere”).

A large number of blogs (just a sampling, there) have posted about linking etiquette in the blogosphere in the past, with it seemingly coming down to these general guidelines:

1. You don’t need permission to link to a blog, however, it’s generally considered good etiquette to remove a link if asked to do so. (Metafandom is a fannish example of a blog/newsletter which follows this practice–if a post is public, it’s fair game for linking unless the author has said in their post they don’t want it on MF, or ask to have it removed later on).

2. Stealing content without credit, or including information without a link back to where it came from, is bad. So is including links/content in a way that potentially steals revenue from the original blogger.

3. Reciprocal links can be nice but are not mandatory.

Seems like these rules should be easy enough to understand, but that’s not often the case. And coupled with some folks’ apparent misunderstanding of the public nature of un-protected blogs, this can lead to major wank. A recent example of this I witnessed was on the egullet forums–a somewhat elitist website for food and dining enthusiasts. Shola Olunloyo, a very popular “private chef” in the Philadelphia community and Pennsylvania subforum was running a blog on food which mysteriously disappeared, and then returned some time later under strict password protection. In the wank on the egullet forum that followed (posts on the subject mainly deleted by a forum moderator on 2/18/09), it appeared Shola did not like having his blog linked to by others, and then got upset over certain negative/potentially trolling comments that had been posted there.

Certainly, a blog (or any site) can become more trouble than it’s worth if one is constantly harassed or confronted by it, but this incident ended up coming across as someone being unfortunately unfamiliar with the way the internet works and then coming off with a bad case of “I’m taking my toys and going home” or flounce at the end of the day. If a person wanted to share their ideas about food and cooking without ever risking negative comments, comments could have been disabled entirely on the blog (or screened by an assistant to the blog, if the chef never wanted to even see them himself unless the comments were positive). If linking to the site was to be such a “no-no”, a disclaimer should have been clearly put on the site stating as much (and even then, cannot be completely expected to be followed)–just the arguments on egullet that followed showed that everyone’s apparent ideas of netiquette with regard to linking is different from each other. Or perhaps Shola should have simply started with a password-protected blog from the start, the only way to truly limit who had access to his site, as he apparently learned the hard way instead of avoiding certain unpleasantness from the start.

There are a lot more exampled of misconceptions of privacy on-line I can think of which I’ve seen in recent times: a fan-fiction author being outed after not protecting her fannish identity as separate from the “real life” one on Facebook; a chat session being copied on a public messageboard which some participants had believed would be private, which then lead to serious wank within the fandom. Almost every week there seems to be some kerfluffle in fandom related to privacy issues, sometime minor, sometimes major.

So I’m going to end this blog with a point towards Fan History’s Privacy Help Page. We’ve been wanked in the past about it for it being “laughable” and “impractical”; that to follow all the guidelines within would not allow one to participate in fandom at all. And such criticism is missing the point. The point is that one must constantly make thoughtful decisions when on the internet regarding one’s desire and needs for privacy vs. one’s desire to create and share in on-line communities. You can’t expect the millions of people out there on the net to all have the same “good intentions” as you do, nor the same ideas of what constitutes netiquette. One must be aware of the “risks” involved in one’s actions on-line, and make decisions on whether they feel comfortable with those risks. If you create a public blog, you must accept that people are, in fact, going to read it. And maybe disagree with you and what you say, and tell you such. If you post anything under pseudonym to “protect your privacy” but aren’t consistent in keeping your real life identity separate from your fannish one (or try to use your reputation or “standing” within the fannish community to improve your real life one, or vice-versa) eventually someone may “connect the dots” in a way that could have negative repercussions for you. These are the facts of life in the internet world of today, facts which, unfortunately, many only seem to realize from making embarrassing and potentially more hurtful mistakes.

Pipl: Knowing more about you than you may realize

January 29th, 2009

TechCrunch ran an article about Pipl, a really cool people finding search engine. I’ve known about it for over a year because we get a half dozen visits a month from them. If you ever wanted to know anything about anyone, don’t go to Google, go to Pipl instead.

That said, some corners of fandom has a lot of privacy issues. If you’re concerned about yours, definitely check it out because you might not be aware of how much you’re leaking out that you didn’t know about. That includes public records that governments have made available. And after you’ve done that, go and make sure your fandom friends know so that we people are made aware so there aren’t any future outings like the one in the Supernatural fandom as a result of people’s ignorance about the Internet and how it works.

ReadWriteWeb warns about privacy issues…

January 10th, 2009

in discussing what Google warned people about. The basic gist of it is that developers need to be careful with their applications on-line because private information can be leaked because developers don’t properly inform users of how their application works, because users assume privacy when their isn’t and that users and developers need to get their expectations in sync.

So always be on the safe side. Always assume whatever you’re doing could be made public. Watch where you’re clicking and think before you act. Just because some parts of fandom think that their information is secure, doesn’t mean it actually is.

Twitter privacy

October 24th, 2008

Fandom can have some real issues with privacy.  And parts of fandom are really making a move towards twitter as a way of connecting with other fans, getting news, etc.  If you’ve locked your entries so that only friends can see your twitter updates, ValleyWag is running a story you need to know about: Your locked posts are visible to all who view the xml feed for that. It just reiterates the one truism on-line that you should always remember: Never put anything on-line that you don’t want the world to know because your information can become public.

Google’s digg like features probably not a fandom friendly feature

July 16th, 2008

The news about Google’s digg like features, as an active partipant in fandom, I’m not entirely happy with.   One of the things I know about fandom is that authors and fan artists like to have the perception of control of feedback regarding their work.  Many authors and artists get upset when comments for their stories and art are posted elsewhere, especially when those comments are negative.  Many authors get upset when their works are included and they have no control over it and there doesn’t seem to be a vehicle that controls for abuse.  Yes, people can submit on digg but digg isn’t a tool utilized by fandom much.  And the environment for digg is not a search tool that people go looking for fan fiction on.   Google on the other hand is very much a tool for fandom and finding material.

We’ll see how this turns out but I suspect some corners of fandom will be really angry about this.

How not to appear on Fan History

April 28th, 2008

This is copy and pasted from Fan History’s Privacy help page. It is worth repeating in this blog as many people are not aware of the extent to which the information they put out there in fandom is accessible to others.

Fan History’s advice to those in fandom who want privacy, want to avoid the possibility of ever being mentioned on Fan History or want to never have people link to their work outside their control:

1. Always assume that anything you post on the Internet may become public and respond accordingly. Assume some one may screencap it or discuss it elsewhere, even if the message board, fan fiction archive, mailing list is private and requires a password to access the content. Do not assume that any standards in fandom will keep people from revealing what you share. Always assume that your loved ones, friends, employers, potential employers, the media or academics might be linked to any thing you published on the Internet.

2. Never share your real name in anyway that can connect back to your fan name. Do not do it behind locked posts. Do not share it on private communities. Do not allow your real name and fan name to be connected at conventions. Do not assume that people will respect your desire to keep your real name out of fandom.

3. Do not assume that rules regarding Internet privacy do not apply to fandom, or that, because of fandom, you have increased privacy as fans realize the importance of privacy. Cultural expectations for that differ from site to site, archive to archive, community to community, person to person. Do not assume that because it is fandom that web companies will honor what you see as cultural norms regarding fandom privacy. Fandom needs are frequently not the same as business needs. Fandom does not share universal rules regarding privacy. If you make that assumption and behave accordingly, you risk being burned and burned badly.

4. Do not join any social networking services. This includes MySpace, FaceBook, Bebo, Orkut, LiveJournal, InsaneJournal, LiveSpace, etc. Information on social networking is increasingly shared. Making the information on those sites more searchable and more accessible across sites is increasingly part of business plans for new web enterprises. The profiles on those sites also contain a fair amount of historical information about your experience in fandom. This includes groups you belong to, your interests, universities and colleges you attend, your age and other personal information. If the profile is publicly accessible, people can link to it. Any other information that is public on the site can be linked to by anyone, including complete strangers who you know nothing about.

5. Do not join any message boards. Many message boards create profiles. The profiles on many message board contain a fair amount of historical information about your experience in fandom. This includes when you joined, threads you were participated, any contact information you include, etc. If the profile is publicly accessible, people can link to it. You might not like who could link to this information.

6. Do not publish on any fan fiction archives that are publicly accessible. If it is publicly accessible, people can link to it and discuss it outside of your control.

7. Always make sure that you have robots.txt files which deny all robots from indexing the fan fiction archive you belong to, your personal site, blog, index, mailing list archive or any other site which you belong to. Most robots honor robot.txt files and won’t violate them. If they don’t, many robots, like Google and the Internet Archive, consider it okay to copy everything posted to their own servers. The site is the one telling them they can do that and not much you can do about it.

8. Check the robots.txt file of any site you publish on. If you do not like the robot.txt information, do not publish anything on the site. If you do, you could be giving companies like Google and the Internet Archive permission, whether you intend to or not, to copy your work and store it on their servers, way out of your control.

9. Do not allow RSS feeds on sites where you post that might export your content to news aggregators and rss search engines. Some of these aggregtors will, depending on the type of RSS feed you have, post the full content of your submission. This is the case for a site like LiveJournal and for scripts like WordPress. Some sites, such as archives using efiction, have rss feeds which announce new story submissions. You cannot generally control where these RSS feeds show up, nor always follow who is watching them. They might be included in obscure RSS search engines that you’ve never heard of. If you allow them or on a site that uses them in relation to your content, then you’re taking control away from where your information and content is being shared.

10. Keep contact in fandom to a minimum. If you interact with people, it increases the chances that you will share information with people that could be made public. If you interact with people, you risk annoying people who might then hold grudges against you. If you interact with people, you risk people saying nice things about you and wanting to share how nice you are with others. You cannot trust that people will not share anything you shared with others, even if you think that the person is your BFF in fandom. To avoid such sharing, avoid contact.

11. If you are going to be involved in fandom, avoid wank at all costs. Wank will get you attention. Wank will motivate people to share, break FLock and password community expectations. Wank will motivate people to share private e-mails and personal communications with others. Wank will draw increased attention to you and your actions.

12. Find out about who you are interacting with in fandom to determine if they might be some one who might share with others things you have done and avoid people who might share information at all costs. Check Fan History and Fandom Wank. Search on various search engines including Google, message board search engines, Usenet search engines and more. Ask around about people. Find out the history of that individual in fandom and out. Ask their fandom friends about the history of their behavior. Make sure you know who you are dealing with and if you want to risk dealing with them. If you do not want to deal with the, avoid and avoid their social network.

13. Always read privacy statements. Understand what they say. Realize what information that you could be sharing and who could be looking at it.

14. Realize that your every keystroke is likely being tracked. Google keeps records of every search you make. With services like gmail and adsense, a program picks up keywords from your content to give you contextualized ads. Companies like Hitwise get data from ISPs that is used to market to people. Most websites keep logs of every visitor that visits their site based on IP address and can tell which pages you visited and for how long you stayed. There are counters like, SiteMeter, GoogleAnalytics, Quantcast and StatCounter which allow blog maintainers and web site maintainers to track that information. The best way to avoid being tracked is to not visit any site which concerns you.

15. Regularly check sites like and Google to make sure your information is not included and take steps to remove that material as you spot it. Consider subscribing to a service like Trackur or Google Alerts to monitor where you are mentioned. You have to be proactive in protecting your privacy as industry trends, upon which the backbone of some fandom activities are built, are about sharing information and making things more accessible across sites. This can be great for fandom but if you’re genuinely concerned about your privacy and the ability to control where and how people talk about you or the content you create, this is not good. Given that, it is up to you to maintain your privacy and where people link to you.

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