Are you a blogger? You might be. There are more than 71 million blogs out on the Internet. These simple Web sites are often used for news or commentaries on a particular subject. They can also function as personal online diaries. That's where serious trouble can erupt.
The Australian Government's netalert.net.au lists as some of the dangers people (particularly children) can run into if they're not careful when blogging:
- Publishing private information. Children, especially, are vulnerable and unsuspecting and can post information about themselves and their families. This information can easily be made available to the public, including undesirable people who are lurking online.
- Profiles. Again, children can unwittingly enter private information (e.g. contact information, photos or private details) in the profiles of their user accounts. They may not be aware this information may be made available to the public.
- Inappropriate content. Children may be able to search through other people's blogs and find inappropriate content or discussions on topics that are not suitable.
- Online bullying. Children can use blogs as a way to bully or intimidate other children.
- Defamation and race hate. Children can use blogs as a form of publishing to defame other innocent people or to publish racial hatred information. Columbine killer Eric Harris published an online tirade filled with profanities, hate and racial slurs.
- Publishing unreliable information. Unfettered, unreliable information can be and often is published by anybody creating a blog.
In proposing legislation to prosecute pedophiles for meeting children for sex via the Internet, forensic psychologist Rachel O'Connell warned the Scottish Parliament that, "Online journals and cameral phones are a ‘pedophiles' dream." That's because children are naively uploading pictures and giving out details of their everyday lives "because it's an online journal."
The Biggest Danger: Posting Personal Details
Blogging Mommies asks the question, "Do you know who is reading your blog?" Site founder Kelly Brown warns that the beautiful baby pictures you post online for your friends and family to see can also be seen by pedophiles and other nefarious characters. She relates that one mother had done just that, posted pictures of her twins, only to find that someone else had posted her photos on another blog. Needless to say, that unnerving experience had the mother wondering what their intentions were. And who else had seen those pictures?
Brown emphatically warns not to give out too much information. By doing so, you may be giving a stranger information they need to do you or a loved one harm. For instance, are you posting your day-to-day schedule? Are you taking the baby for a walk in a stroller every morning at the City Park? Are you revealing that you're gone from the house by revealing that you have to pick the kids of from school every afternoon at 3:00? Maybe you head out to the gym early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning (perfect information for a burglar). Or maybe you're now working a business from your home — alone.
Brown advises leaving out specific details: names of places, specific days, and specific times. Are you planning a vacation that will take you out of town for a period of time? Don't reveal when you are leaving or how long you'll be gone. Maybe it would be better to talk about the vacation after you get back.
The Old Goat Trail blog also warns against providing too many personal details:
- Personal details are often interesting only to you but they can make readers think less of you as a person.
- Personal details often are not relevant, especially if it's a business, marketing, academic or other serious blog.
- Personal details on your blog can anger your employer if he or she sees it. Employees have been fired for such incidents.
- Personal details can be misinterpreted and, in turn, used against you.
The Old Goat Trail also notes posting personal details can endanger your family:
- Personal details have often gotten girls in trouble with pedophiles and male perverts — and even kidnappers.
- Personal details about your lifestyle, habits and haunts are just what stalkers or thieves are looking for.
- All too often, personal details posted on your blog can make you the victim of identity theft — one of today's most prolific crimes.
You can password-protect your blog, making it only accessible to family members and friends. But the safest course to protect yourself and your loved ones is to leave out the personal details and candid photos.
Blocking Search Engines
Brown also states that, "Google is your conscience, your big brother and it keeps a record of every single word you write on the Internet. You can't be too careful, but there are methods of blocking Google from archiving your blog." She says insert the following code into the section of your blog:
- <META NAME="GOOGLEBOT" CONTENT="NOARCHIVE">
Also, she says you can block other search engines from saving your pages with this code:
- <META HTTP-EQUIV="PRAGMA" CONTENT="NO-CACHE">
And, if you want to stop Google from indexing your blog altogether, insert this into your <head> section:
- <META NAME="robots" CONTENT="noindex,nofollow">