How accesible should blog archives be?
February 28, 2005 1:33 PM   Subscribe

How accessible should the archives of one's blog be? In terms of privacy and security, are there certain things that should not be able to be Googled?

Having recently migrated from LiveJournal to MovableType I've realized that much of the past three years of my life is now easily searchable in Google. I'm comfortable with people searching within my blog for past entries, but somewhat more skeptical that such an enormous group of people can have such intimate access to my life.

LiveJournal was more of a community and I chose not to let Google spider my blog. The scope was very small and I talked a lot about my friends and my day-to-day happenings. Still, I took care not to slander anyone, not to leave my address anywhere, and other simple things like that.

However, much of my life remains documented with lots of pictures. Should I worry about identity theft or anything else? Do bloggers generally keep so much personal information available online?

I understand that this seems contradictory to the point of a blog, but is there a point when you can have too much of your life shared on the net?
posted by themadjuggler to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Best answer: I had to think about this- when I got a stats tracker for my page, I noticed that my journal came up in a search for my full real name. That made me uncomfortable (I don't believe there is anyone else with my name, due to a unique last name), so I edited it out of all entries, and now my journal doesn't come up in a search of my full name anymore. I made it un-cacheable. I don't use real names- I make up nicknames for all my friends. I have separate e-mail addresses for "real life" and online life. Can you have too much of your life shared on the net? I think it depends on how likely it is that your family, friends, employers, etc, will see it. I keep my "privacy" by making it unlikely that people I don't want to share my page with will find it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:45 PM on February 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

You need to decide if you are comfortable with anyone in the world reading anything on your site. If there are things there that are private enough you would rather not have some stranger read them, then you should consider locking your archives and site down. I don't post anything I would be embarrassed about having anyone read. So my site is a bit impersonal, even though I do talk about some aspects of my life. You can password protect your pages for example. Also, you can still have google not spider your site.
posted by chunking express at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2005

You can write a robots.txt file to keep google and other search engine spiders out.

As a rule I don't post anything on the internet that I don't mind the whole world knowing, including family, friends, and work. A lot of information like your name, address, and phone number isn't hard to find, so I wouldn't worry too much about keeping that under wraps.
posted by mealy-mouthed at 1:59 PM on February 28, 2005

Should I worry about identity theft

"Identity theft" is in lots of ways a misnomer (and a scare label). What you have to worry about is someone obtaining things like your credit card (in a restaurant), your credit card number (discarded statements or receipts), social security number, date of birth, and mother's maiden name.

In other words, identity theft isn't about you as real person (who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like and don't like), it's about data. So (without looking at your blog) your concerns probably should be about things such as what your friends and co-workers and/or fellow students and prospective employers might think about you after reading the blog ...
posted by WestCoaster at 2:03 PM on February 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: berek - My question isn't at all about embarassment but problems that may arise in

1) respecting the privacy of others
2) opening myself to identity theft
3) giving handy information to potential stalkers

(and I don't think I've complained about it just yet-- I just want to know what everyone thinks)

[thanks for the responses so far!]
posted by themadjuggler at 2:09 PM on February 28, 2005

I think some people deal with this by creating a "personal" category in their blog and password-protecting that category--the rest remains wide-open to Google,, etc. I believe this has been discussed in the MT forums. Wordpress can hide archives on an entry-by-entry basis with a plugin.

It's not a problem I've ever concerned myself with, although I can understand the concern. I know through a friend-who-blogs that some people out there can be extremely touchy about being mentioned in a blog, even obliquely, without even a pseudonym.

Part of the problem with this kind of thing is knowing in advance what will be a problem for someone at some point down the road. There's also the possibility that an old entry would be helpful to some random reader, but only if they can find it. Lots of people write for google in their blogs--"I've solved this problem, here's how you can too."

It would be difficult, IMO, to develop and adhere to a policy on publicly-accessible archives that does the maximum good and minimum harm. Good luck--I'd be interested in knowing what you come up with.
posted by adamrice at 2:48 PM on February 28, 2005

The only sure way to keep something private is to not publish it. If you're at all uncomfortable with the idea that some random person may one day come across information (whether through browsing your site or through search engines like Google), the only smart thing to do is to not put it on the web.
posted by willnot at 3:27 PM on February 28, 2005

Best answer: I believe that if you make a commodity of your personal life, your personal life will become a commodity. That is the risk you are engaging. It's pretty smart of you to ask the exposure and the serverity of your commodity getting out. In this case, it's the implication that information you make free to the world will fall into the hands of certain individuals of that world.

From the technology standpoint, don't console yourself that privacy today is privacy tomorrow. Many friends found that posting via the University computers to USENET back in the early 90s really snuck up and bit them in the ass during job interviews and background checks. When they posted, it wasn't conceived that someone could search the whole history of USENET posts in less than a second. While robots.txt and no index meta's keep the honest in honest means, that isn't to stay that what you make public is not going in some vault somewhere to be searchable via a three dimensional intuitive interface in twenty years.

On the personal end, you do owe it your friends and family who do not post their lives on the internet, to not have their interactions posted through you. You also owe it to yourself. Having your personal life indexed and able isn't something you most likely will be thrilled about in three hundred years.

I don't really buy the easy solution, "tell the robots not to remember." I believe that if you are making the information public, it is going to be public. The only solution that means privacy is making the information private. If you only are asking for pseudo-privacy the standard responses will give that.

Basically, you are open to fall if you put it out there. This might be a long way of saying, any information about friends, yourself, your work, your interactions with the world is too much.

Hopefully when my Great Great Great Grandchildren search their family name and read this post they'll think it's good advice...
posted by sled at 3:30 PM on February 28, 2005

Having your personal life indexed and able isn't something you most likely will be thrilled about in three hundred years.

I don't know... I love the record I'm keeping of my life. I read through it, and I remember stuff that I've forgotten, and I laugh. Of course, I have put some shields of privacy in place, as I mentioned above. And in three hundred years, I'll most likely be dead, and by then I doubt I'll care who reads about my silly life.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:33 PM on February 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Many of us long time bloggers reach that point of concern for privacy sooner or later. And so will you. I don't think you have to worry about hiding your entries until you really decide you want to. With MT, its easy for you to do that at any point. And if you want Google to stop indexing your site, all you have to do is add a metatag to it. Google lets you remove caches as well as a whole website.

I realise that you are concerned now. But when the time is right, you'll know what to do (Ok, I know that sounds like a movie cliche but it's true.)
posted by timyang at 12:32 AM on March 1, 2005

Everyone handles this differently. I've kept an online journal since 1997, and it was never in question for me - I didn't let Google index it, but I also never put anything up on the internet in any form that I wouldn't want some other person to read.

This includes any/all details about my love life present, past or (intended) future, and especially things like "I'm going out of town on a trip next week. Anyone want to take care of my cat? (Or rob me blind?)" Those things really aren't appropriate for an online journal - not mine, at least.

For a while, I blanched about putting my real name up here on MetaFilter, but it's already up (with pictures) on a hospital website and a couple of medical licensing board sites, so what can you do? The question's rhetorical, but I guess the answer is: make your online presence as safe and as flattering as possible.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:01 AM on March 1, 2005

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