Tag Archives: privacy

Our online identity

identity crisis by woodleywonderworks via flickr CC

In June, I blogged about the issues of online privacy and security and I’m revisiting that a bit in the context of online identities.

The places you can find me online are outlined in a post here but the issue of online identity is a bit more complex than just a list of social media sites.

Because our online identities are public (often more public than we realise, in spite of privacy controls (Pearson 2009, Raynes-Goldie 2010)) it is important to manage the message that goes out to other people. Pearson says many people use a form of censorship in thinking about what to put out under their online identity – for example, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother/kids/boss to read.

This is a practical form of privacy control and allows for the ever-present possibility that someone other than your target audience is reading your profile, status updates, e-portfolio or blog posts.

Harris (2010) looks at this from the other end – what can those of us in perceived positions of power or authority do to protect ourselves and our online identities so that they are not construed as being used inappropriately? The example Harris uses is teachers but this is relevant for those working in library and information services as well. From an institutional point of view, good policies around social media and communication can be an important part of safeguarding online identity, of both the institution and the individual staff involved.

In the professional world of libraries and information science, maintaining an online identity is increasingly important for individuals working in the space. Much of my professional informal learning and information exchange is via social media and it enables me to stay connected with others working in a similar field.

Managing the standard of that personal brand may be tricky because social media allows the personal and the professional brands to merge online – for example, my Facebook presence is largely for family and friends but some of those people are also professional colleagues.

Merely by putting our personal brand ‘out there’ in cyber space means we are, to some degree, forfeiting the right to privacy as it has been traditionally understood (Pearson 2010). We need to be aware that working and posting and commenting in the public social media space is akin to putting up a poster on a telegraph pole with our personal details and photograph attached (Hutton 2008). As I said in my June post – I’m ok with that, but the integrity of my personal brand is dependent on that being in the back of my mind every time I press send or publish.


Harris, C. (2010). Friend me?: School policy may address friending students online, School Library Journal, 1 April. Available http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6724235.html

Hutton, G. 2008, Privacy & online social networks: a proposed approach for academic librarians in university libraries, Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, Vol. 4 http://ocs.library.dal.ca/ojs/index.php/djim/article/view/2008vol4Hutton/67
Pearson, J. (2009). Life as a dog: Personal identity and the internet. Meanjin, 68(2), 67-77.
Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Availablehttp://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2775/2432

Privacy and security online

Security by CarbonNYC via flickr CC

This post is inspired by Vesna’s contribution to the ALIA Sydney blog today and by one I read over at danah boyd’s apophenia blog a few weeks ago.  As often happens to me, I went to comment on Vesna’s post and realised I had so much to say it was probably easier to write my own post!

Vesna questions our online security and how to manage it with all the different accounts, passwords and logins we have to manage both professionally and privately in the digital world we live in.  danah boyd’s post looks at the way teenagers view privacy online – slightly different focus but as I have both (ageing) parents and teenagers using online tools and asking me questions about security and privacy I thought it might be a good idea to post something combining my thoughts on both.  By the way, if you have teens, or work with teens, or even just know some teens, I highly recommend danah’s post on the way teenagers themselves view their online privacy – she brings us the opinions and thoughts of the teens themselves and it’s really interesting reading.

In response to danah’s post I wrote

I really enjoyed reading this ‘work in progress’. I have 3 teenage kids and your research has confirmed my gut feeling about their perspective on this issue of ‘privacy’. With particular reference to Facebook, I’ve tried to frame it for them more in terms of asking themselves what they would want people outside their friendship groups to have access to (eg prospective employers)and how to make it more difficult for the casual observer to see their ’stuff’. I’m also in the privileged position that all 3 of my teens are happy to be FB friends with me and I love the window into their lives that I can get without being obtrusive or invasive.

I think there’s a danger that we adults look at this with adult eyes rather than finding out just what the kids are thinking and doing and your research format lets us hear from the kids themselves. I particularly loved Alicia’s insight into the fact that we are imposing our ‘old values’ onto new technology, whereas they just don’t see it like that.

I don’t have particular concerns about my online privacy, I choose to participate in social media with my eyes wide open, but my online security is probably (definitely?) another matter. I know I make poor security choices, I use a handful of passwords across a multitude of sign ons, logins and accounts both at work and at home. I do use an iPhone app that has most of this information locked away behind a unique, very unusual password – but the reality is that most of my passwords are so easy, or repeated so often that I don’t often need to refer to the iPhone app, I can just remember them off the top of my head.

This is not good. Perhaps I need a touch of the paranoia or fear that Vesna describes as coming from some of the older people she teaches social media – I think I’ve become so blase about the persistent presence of my online identity that I forget it needs to be guarded.  It’s probably time to upgrade my passwords.