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Staying Safe: Dangers in blogging

By Nadine Wimmer  |  Posted Nov 3rd, 2008 @ 10:08pm



 

A growing number of Utahns are discovering serious drawbacks to a popular pastime: blogging. But we found some cases that may change the way you blog.

Lainie Ottley

Blogs help families share memories, but they can also make families a target for harassment, even stalking. But there's little law enforcement officers can do. It's simply post at your own peril.

A crazy birthday haircut documented on a family blog. His mom never dreamed their Mohawk memory would end up making him look like a member of the Hitler Youth on someone else's blog.

"We were really upset," blogger Lainie Ottley said. "For me, it's a huge offense."

She not only felt violated, but afraid of the association with neo-Nazis.

"Given the verbiage with the picture, we felt like it had created a pretty dangerous situation," Ottley said.

But when she called police, she learned there's not a thing they can do.

"That's some of the frustration, almost daily, when I take these calls," said Rhett McQuist, with Utah's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. "Right now, the laws haven't caught up with technology."

For another blogger, who did not want to be identified, the peril came not from pictures, but postings. "We had had no idea who it was," she said.

Degrading comments turned into more than a dozen threats and insults a day posted to her family's blog. "We just felt harassed and started to feel unsafe because of what was written," she said.

She and her husband eventually hired an attorney, filed a lawsuit, subpoenaed Google and were shocked to discover their stalker was a close family member. "It wrecked my trust in people, still does. And it makes you question everything," she said.

Those tough experiences get at the heart of what appeals to most bloggers: posting pictures of your children and making them accessible for family and friends. But how much information is too much?

We surfed blogs and found first and last names, birth dates for an entire, a countdown to the family Disneyland vacation, information on a husband's deployment to Iraq and a slide show of the inside of someone's house.

All this makes it easy, in many cases, for us to go from blogsite to blogger's doorstep in a few computer clicks.

It's just not worth the risk for these bloggers. "If you're going to do it, just know there's no way to keep it completely safe," Ottley said.

Criminal investigators say to Stay Safe, bottom line, don't post pictures of children online. You should also protect your blogsite with a password.

They also say guard information like your address. We saw pictures where the house address was visible.

Finally, adjust settings on your blog that protect your identity and make you unsearchable.

For more safety tips, and for help in tracking who visits your blog, click the related links to the right of the story.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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