Saturday, October 2, 2010

Online Safety and Presence

100_5048 Most writers are spending more time than ever online.  And we’re putting a lot of ourselves out there—on social media, through blogging—or even by sharing our work online.

Although that’s the best way to access the support of the online writing community (and publishers love it,  from a marketing standpoint), it pays to keep an eye on our online presence.

Recently, the Writer Warriors blog ran a good post on basic online safety tips.  I might have violated a couple of them from time to time. :)  It’s a good reminder that we’re not just communicating with our friends when we’re putting our information online—we’re also communicating it to any bad guys out there in cyberspace.

Some writers I’ve come across worry a lot about online security and cyberstalkers, etc.  I think it’s a good thing to think about and to be careful with, but I can honestly say that so far I can count on one hand the number of creepy people I’ve met online and I have a pretty extensive network.  It’s easy enough to unfollow or unfriend or block these folks.  But I do have a writing friend who has had a more serious problem—so there are really scary people out there.

You need to make sure to change your passwords on Twitter (especially Twitter….which has hackers breaking in pretty frequently) and Facebook fairly often.   If someone hijacks our online identity, it’s going to be a problem.

I also do Google searches on my name occasionally (probably not as often as I should.)  I have Google alerts for my books and blog.  Sometimes I’ll check my name on Google images and it’s mind boggling the amount of stuff that comes up.  There are definitely pictures of me on there, but some of the pictures I don’t understand at all.  It’s a good way to make sure your name isn’t being misused in any way or that your identity hasn’t been stolen.

We also have to watch out for online pirates, unfortunately.  There are blogs that are set up as fronts for spammers.  They’ll steal your content in a second.  Sometimes you can contact these places and mention copyright and successfully get them to take the stuff down—sometimes it just doesn’t work.

A couple of my friends have had their published books put up on pirate sites for download.  They contacted their publisher and got them to tackle it…which they did.  It’s better to go through your publisher for that kind of thing—they’ve got the Big Gun lawyers, after all.

And we can’t forget the stuff that we put up online before we really think about what we’re saying.  Since our online remarks stay accessible for years after we make them, we really need to pass everything we write through a filter—would we want our publisher/employer/readers/mother/children to read this comment?  Can it possibly be taken the wrong way?

Unfortunately, the more time we spend online, the easier it is to relax and forget about these things.  When I read articles like the one that came out the other day, it reminds me that I should pay more attention.

How vigilant are you to protect your identity online?