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Thoughts on my ‘online identity’

I started my first blog in July of 2010, as an assessment piece for the “Information Programs” course in the Masters in IT that I’d just started at QUT. I found it again last week.

One of the posts I wrote back then, on ‘online identity’, still rings true for me in 2012, so I thought I’d re-visit the topic. Firstly – my original blog entry…

Three questions to ensure your online identity is secure yet still effective


I bet you never thought that what you write online could get you killed. But the threat is real. And with the exponential growth in new technologies, and new apps for existing devices, the possibility of it happening to you, gets larger every day. Don’t believe me? Just ask Leo Hickman, journalist for The Guardian, in the UK, who became a Foursquare cyberstalker.

“Louise has straight, auburn hair and, judging by the only photograph I have of her, she’s in her 30s. She works in recruitment. I also know which train station she uses regularly, what supermarket she shopped at last night and where she met her friends for a meal in her home town last week. At this moment, she is somewhere inside the pub in front of me meeting with colleagues after work.

Louise is a complete stranger. Until 10 minutes ago when I discovered she was located within a mile of me, I didn’t even know of her existence. But equipped only with a smartphone and an increasingly popular social networking application called Foursquare, I have located her to within just a few square metres, accessed her Twitter account and conducted multiple cross-referenced Google searches using the personal details I have already managed to accrue about her from her online presence. In the short time it has taken me to walk to this pub in central London, I probably know more about her than if I’d spent an hour talking to her face-to-face.”


CC image courtesy pigliapost at

Scared yet? But you don’t need to be. You just need to be careful what you share online. Find that fine line between ‘enough’ and ‘too much’. I have very clear boundaries which I will not cross when it comes to sharing information online. Here are the three questions I continually ask myself, to check I’m not crossing those ‘lines in the sand’.

1. What do your images say about you?

Google me. Please. Through facebook, you’ll find that I’m a mum of three. You might even find that my children are 5, 2, and 1. But it’s not likely that you’ll find their names. And I challenge you to find a photo – or video – of them anywhere on the net. If you do – please contact me and let me know, so I can remove it! Am I paranoid about security? Maybe. But I’d prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of little ones who rely on me to be responsible. When they are older, then they may choose what information they want to reveal about themselves. Until then, I will NOT compromise their security. That’s a ‘line in the sand’ on which I refuse to compromise. But that’s me. Find your own standard, whatever you are comfortable with. Would you find those photos / that video of you at last year’s office Christmas Party funny? Or embarrassing? Remember – future employers also have internet access!

2. What are YOU saying about you?

It’s all too easy to think that when we type words into a computer in the privacy of our own home, we’re talking into a vacuum. But every post on a SNS sends that message to everyone you’re linked with. Want to share that you’re ‘inspired by finishing a brilliant novel’? Fine. Excited about ‘going to look at property?’ Also fine. Just don’t forget you’ve sent such messages, otherwise when you meet someone IRL that you messaged, and they bring it up, you’ll be surprised at how much they know! As Jenica Rogers said in her IOLUG presentation (2009) ‘be ready to accept whatever consequences you might encounter’. But my own ‘line is the sand’ comes to PII, and situations where I might accidentally compromise my own security. Sharing ecstatically that ‘I’m heading away tomorrow for a week-long cruise’, when I’ve already shared my address, is just asking for trouble, don’t you think?

3. What are you NOT saying about you?

This post, so far, has been pretty anti-‘online identities’. But that’s not actually my opinion. As site moderator for, I find it not just important, but essential, to have an effective and up-to-date online presence. But if you had stopped reading before you got to this question, you never would have known that. Hence my point – what are you NOT saying? Are you just sharing one side of the story, one opinion, which doesn’t accurately reflect who you really are? If you share only the superficial, then that will be the picture that people build up of you. So share the mundane, from time to time, but make it a priority to share the worthwhile of who you are and what you do, on a regular basis. Just make sure that you be ‘real’. Don’t massage the truth so much that you end up making stuff up. When you’re discovered, it’ll look really bad. But again – you’ll need to find your own ‘line in the sand’ for this one.

So there it is – my three questions. What are yours?