In the wake of the past week’s Halestrom, I saw a number of people say they were afraid to keep blogging or reviewing. As I’m someone who’s been doxxed by an author and knows of at least two hate sites preoccupied with me, I totally understand the fear. There are, however, a few things you can do to make yourself a little bit safer online.
- PO Boxes Online – First things first, if you do mailings or accept paper ARCs, get a PO Box. The USPS even lets you buy one online.
- Spokeo – Scary Bad & How to Opt Out – Spokeo is one of a number of sites that combine publicly available info together to create a convenient profile. Here’s how to opt yourself out.
Go to the website and look yourself up, then click on your name… once you have done that copy the URL in your web browser. Now, go to the bottom right of the page in small faded blue text, click privacy (third from the left). Once done, paste in the link you copied from the page you found yourself on and enter your email and the security code listed. This is a case where I would use a second email account (your designated junk-email account), not your main email to avoid the build up of possible spam emails that follow. It will then send you an email confirmation where you must click the URL to confirm removal. Voila! You have been removed.
- Intelius Opt-Out – Intelius is another aggregator. If you’re really motivated, here’s the link to hide yourself on White Pages. Good luck with that.
The Intelius database includes information from public records and publicly and commercially available information.
As a courtesy, Intelius allows you to opt-out information related to you from the Intelius.com people search service.
Please follow the opt-out instructions below:
- Domain privacy – This is advice for anyone – authors, bloggers, whoever – that owns a domain name. Register your domain privately, otherwise your registration info is available to anyone doing a whois lookup.
Domain privacy is a service offered by a number of domain name registrars. A user buys privacy from the company, who in turn replaces the user’s info in the WHOIS with the info of a forwarding service (for email and sometimes postal mail, done by a proxy server), such as “Domains by Proxy, Inc.” or eNom’s “ID Protect”.
Personal information is typically collected by these registrars to provide the service. Some registrars take little persuasion to release so-called ‘private’ information to the world, requiring only a phone request or cease and desist letter. Others, however, treat privacy more seriously, and host domain names offshore, even using e-gold or money orders in transactions so that the registrar has no knowledge of the domain name owner’s personal information in the first place (which would otherwise be transmitted along with credit card transactions). It is debatable whether or not this practice is at odds with the domain registration requirement of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
- Limited Liability Company – Depending on your blog’s situation, you might benefit from registering as an LLC. It can protect your personal assets in the case of a lawsuit.
A limited liability company is a hybrid type of legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership.
The “owners” of an LLC are referred to as “members.” Depending on the state, the members can consist of a single individual (one owner), two or more individuals, corporations or other LLCs.
Unlike shareholders in a corporation, LLCs are not taxed as a separate business entity. Instead, all profits and losses are “passed through” the business to each member of the LLC. LLC members report profits and losses on their personal federal tax returns, just like the owners of a partnership would.
- Eight ways to protect your privacy online – This post lists a bunch of little tips and tricks to make sure you’re sharing as little of your info as possible.
The current climate of mass surveillance has led many people to ask if there are ways to protect their privacy online. There are, and Electronic Frontiers Australia recommends the following steps to minimise your individual online security risks.
Bear in mind two points. First, much of the information available from our near-ubiquitous Internet access is easily accessible not just to intelligence agencies, but also to online service providers, their advertisers, people who might want to steal your identity, and, increasingly, anyone with reasonable technical skill.
Second, a significant amount of online security risk is social, not technical. Easily guessed passwords used across a number of services and so-called “social engineering”, in which a victim is tricked into providing login and/or identity information. For both issues, make security a conscious choice.
- Safety First – Improve Privacy Settings For Reviewers – Finally, there’s a petition up on Change.org asking for stronger privacy controls. It’s worth noting that Leafmarks offers these settings as an option.
We ask Goodreads to bring in updated and more adequate privacy options, including the ability for reviewers to make their reviews private and/or to only be visible to friends. This is a small but crucial step you can take that would not only improve the safety of the site for users, but improve overall enjoyment for both readers and authors, thus ensuring we never see a repeat of this week.