Virtual Identity and Personal Privacy

I am an adult using self-publishing software on the Internet and exploring the possibility of getting involved in social software, such as Facebook or Second Life. I can’t find anything definitive about what is safe for me online. I see the rules for children – “Never give your name, address, phone number, or school name to anyone you meet online, never go into a new online area that will cost extra without asking your parents’ permission, never give out a credit card number online, never arrange to meet in person with someone you have met online unless you discuss it with your parents and an adult goes with you to a very public place, always tell your parents, or other adult you trust if you see something online that is scary or that you do not understand.” (American Library Association). I wonder how these rules apply to me and my family.

I think I have already broken most of the rules. I publish under my own name and location. Any one who is interested can find me. I don’t go anywhere online that costs money, but I certainly could. The costs are mine to pay. I give out my credit card information online but through a secure site. We avoid having our passwords memorized even on our home desktop. However, I have met a number of people online that I would love to meet in person, Doug Johnson, Stephen Downes, Darren Kuropatwa… and others. I don’t think that this is dangerous for me. So what are my rules? What is safe for me to publish in this forum? What are the dangers for an adult blogger?

In the work that I have been reading on keeping children safe in online environments, I have been hearing about cyber bullying, exposure to inappropriate materials and sexual predation as the risks of online activity. I don’t think these risks apply to me. Am I deluded? I can’t be bullied by my peers. I don’t have any personal contacts who are familiar enougyh with these tools to bully me with them. They don’t even know what they are. I know what to do when I find something I don’t want to see from the Internet and it doesn’t bother or frighten me unduly. At least no more than the nightly news. I think I would know what to do if I was propositioned online. Although it has never happened in person and I think it is even less likely here. So are there risks to my privacy and security when I develop my online identity? If so, what are they?

I can see the risk of identity theft, the risks assosicated with saying things that employers may not like, the risk of stupidity (that is saying something stupid that others find out about). Am I missing anything? I seem to recall Dean Shareski blogging about the risks to students and how he felt they were exaggerated. (My paraphrase, he can correct me if I misinterpreted).

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Filed under blogging, identity, learning, safety

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