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Stalking And Harassment
Does anyone remember all the stuff about Jayne Hitchcock and how she was harassed and stalked online? Well, all of it is there on google groups which back in the day was known as usenet. In fact you can find posts dating back to 1983 on all kinds of topics. That crap made her famous. I doubt that's the way she wanted to get there but nonetheless it made her very well known.
What's amazing to me is how much information they were able to get and that was back in the mid 90's when the internet was in it's infancy. The search sites were not what they are today, information couldn't have been as easy to get as it is today. Public records were not online yet and if they were there were very, very few of them around. Back then getting public information meant physically going to a courthouse and having someone who worked there pull up the information you wanted. NOne of this log on and have the info in about a minute or so. It was much more time consuming, more tedious yet these people put all that effort into harassing Jayne Hitchcock.
Unfortunately it takes all kinds to make up the world and these people were obviously very sick.
I've run into a few very sick people in my life and believe me some people are so sick they belong in looney bins. It's like someone once told me, there are alot of people out there who belong in mental institutions that aren't there and you never really know who these people are until you run across them face to face.
It's big world out there with alot of sick people in it and it's very important to guard your personal information online. You have no idea who you are talking with online. The person could be an average Joe/Jane or a rapist or murderer. You just don't know and you have no way of knowing. So it's important to protect your information as much as you can not just from really bad people but from snoops too. No one needs your private information but you.
If you like to blog and write like I do it's best to guard your exact location and use a pen name, It wasn't until recently when I signed up for a writing site where it allowed me to write under a pen name that I realized the value of this little tidbit. I understand most people want to be recognized therefore feel it only natural to use their real names but you don't have to and being it is the internet no one really cares. IN fact most people aren't going to know it's even you. But if you want everyone, that is, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. to know it's you behind the masterpiece of written art then tell them what your pen name is. I guarantee if they are truly interested they look you up. If not, it didn't matter anyway.
JUst remember this when it comes to privacy. I really didn't pay much thought to this until I went back through some of the old Jayne Hitchcock postings that I realized just how much information is out there and can be accessed easily and believe me if getting that info was that easy back in 1996 just think about how easy it is today.
It doesn't matter if you post on forums like google groups, specialized forums related to automobiles or writing for websites or comingling on social bookmarking sites like facebook and myspace it important to guard your privacy. It's much harder on facebbook, myspace and like sites because the whole idea is to use your real name and I certainly do but you can protect yourself by not sharing where you live with people you don't know and not giving them the leverage to find out either. By that I mean, if you are going to be on sites like facebook and use your real name on writing sites, in forums, etc. make sure you have unlisted number. This is very important and alot of people overlook this small piece of advice. However, on the downside there are many sites out there who offer to get unlisted/nonpublished numbers for you but it isn't as easy as it once was.
If you happen to be on dating sites don't share personal information until you get to know the person. Never offer to let them pick you up. Drive your own car so you can make a speedy exit from the restaurant, coffee house, etc. if things start to go south and don't be afraid to say you have to leave or that you are uncomfortable. Don't antagonize. If you are dealing with someone with a few screws loose the last thing you want to do is make them angry so it's best to make up something like a sick friend, etc.
You may find this advice eccentric or even paranoid but it is better to be slightly paranoid than a statistic.
Just be safe and be smart.