I've always been careful not to give too much away online. It's not like I have dark secrets, but I do want to control the information that exists about me on the Internet. I want to protect myself against those cyber-stalkers I've been hearing so much about. This used to be simple and easy, but the Internet is changing and people are sharing more. I might be paranoid, but what if people are talking about me?
My friends know lots of information about me. Do I have any rights to protect this information? When a company holds information about me, there is normally a formal agreement to protect my rights. If a company takes a photo of me, I need to sign a model release form if they want to use the image publicly. I haven't got any formal agreements with my friends. I've always assumed that we sort of had an informal agreement and they'd just know I wouldn't want them to share stuff about me with strangers. Wouldn't they?
There are lots of sharing websites now. You can share photos, your favourite websites, personal thoughts. You can share almost anything. It's very easy to do, but sometimes the privacy options are more complicated. How clued up are your friends on how to create private viewing groups, or do they even think they're worth the bother?
I started thinking about this when a friend of mine discovered a popular photo sharing site and posted all his photos. He could have made them all private, but to make things simple for us he didn't. I was the only person to object. I don't think they realised how easy it was for other people to find our photos or even that people we didn't know would be able to see them without knowing the exact URL. He made them private when I asked and it wasn't really a problem. Most of my friends agreed that this stuff should be private, but most weren't really that bothered, some thought I was over reacting and one was annoyed that he'd have another password to remember.
Was I overreacting? Pictures contain a lot of information, and if someone I didn't know had access to a large collection of personal photos they could find out a lot about me. Most of it would be harmless, but maybe not all of it would be. I've thought of lots of extreme horror stories of what a potential cyber-stalker could do with this information, if I hadn't put a stop to my friendship group's growing public photo collection. It's probably just my over-active imagination and the result of a vane notion that someone would want to stalk me.
I think it's an interesting issue though. What do you think? Would you mind if a friend of yours published all the photos they had of you? Would you want to know these photos were online? Do you think you have the right to stop them if you don't want them to? Celebrities don't seem to have the right when people publish embarrassing photos of them. Are these cyber-stalkers really as dangerous as I've been led to believe?