I thought I’d post these for folks who don’t want to go back through Harriet’s archive to see what I was talking about yesterday.
Short version: Harriet uses Google Reader and Gmail. She declined Google Buzz, but it set itself up automatically anyway… and shared a bunch of her Reader comments, which included things like info about where she lives/works, with her most frequent contacts… including her horrible, abusive, scary ex. Turns out that one-sided communication (ie, him sending her loads of creepy ass emails) counts as “frequent contact.”
In short, Buzz gave her abusive, horrible ex-husband the means he needed to find her again.
She was, justifiably, enraged: Fuck You, Google.
An article was written about the situation: Outraged Blogger Is Automatically Being Followed By Her Abusive Ex-Husband On Google Buzz
This actually had some effect: As she relates in Screw You, Google, a guy from Google got in touch with her, and because of HER things are being changed around Buzz.
There is, btw, a story in the comments there of someone whose private online journal entries were hacked and used against her during her divorce. Further proof: locking things is not as safe as you think.
Anyway. Harriet took her blog down for a while until the furor generated by all the publicity died down, and she came back. She wrote two long posts about that: I’m Back Part I and I’m Back Part II.
In those entries she talks about the fact that she wants to keep her journal anonymous, and points out that if she really wanted to be absolutely sure that nobody ever connected her to some of the things she writes about, she probably shouldn’t have written about them at all. She talks about how she planned to take her blog down permanently, then decided not to, and why.
They are, I think, a compelling read, and I highly recommend them, along with the rest of her blog.
The whole story is a good example of just how incredibly easy it is for information to slip out of your grasp once you put it on the internet.
Do I think it’s shitty when online companies give you the illusion of privacy and then fuck it up? Absolutely. I also think you should realize how easy it is for them to fuck it up and act accordingly.
Like I said: If you don’t want something to be public knowledge, don’t put it on the internet.