This post is going to be hard to write…mainly because I don’t want to scare anybody. In blogland the question of privacy and what to share is a sensitive topic. We all face the decision of how much to put out here when we began blogging.
I chose the path of a semi-generous sharer. My name is real, my kids names are real, but my goal was to keep my last name and location off my blog. In pictures I erase traces of bus numbers, license plates, street signs, and any other trackable information.
I don’t catch everything. Sometimes I slip. But I really try. In this past year I have to say I’ve gotten lazy about our privacy. I decided knowing which state I live in couldn’t hurt anything and I allowed a number of different websites to post my last name.
Yesterday I received an anonymous email titled, “Should Kathy Be Afraid Of A Stalker“.
When I opened the email there was a document to download. I immediately sent it to my sister who is online with me in the morning and asked her if she thought it was spam. She encouraged me to open it and what I found was a power point presentation.
Slide one showed a still frame of my blog and the post that lead to the discovery of my last name.
Slide two showed a picture of Maile on her last day of school…a place mat sitting on her desk with her first and last name.
The third slide was a still frame of one of my “Explore The State I Live In” posts.
The fourth slide was a still frame of the listing a Google search pulled up that had my first and last name and an address associated with my daycare.
The sixth slide showed a photo of my home via Google Maps.
The seventh slide showed a video of my children making snow angels in a driveway that looked identical to the home that was pulled up on Google maps.
The eighth slide showed an expanded map of our neighborhood with a circle around the name of the nearest elementary school.
Do you want to throw up right about now? Because I did.
The ninth slide showed two photos side by side. The first photo was pulled from my daughters school website and is a photo of the school teachers lined up in the courtyard on picture day. The second photo was pulled from my blog and is of Maile and her friends in the same courtyard on their last day of school.
My heart was in my throat. My mind raced through things I could do to make us safe again. I would need to call the cops. There would need to be a record of this. I would need to call the school. I might need to move my kids to another school. We might need to move to a new home altogether. I’d have to see if I could trace the email address that sent the document. I’d have to look into a lawyer who deals with this kind of online stalking behavior.
I was on the phone with my sister trying to work it out. We were disgusted together. Who could do such a thing? Might it be someone I know who’s not happy with my blog? Are my kids in danger? For crying out loud some creep had gone to the trouble to create an entire power point presentation. I mentioned the idea of tracing the email and then my sister giggled.
“I can’t do this to you anymore Kathy…it was me…I sent the email!!! I just wanted you to think about how much information you’re putting out there, and I knew you would just shrug off a conversation about it and probably wouldn’t act quickly to change some of those things.”
And then I started crying. And she felt bad and I made her cry too.
I could have killed her. I wanted to kill her. But the truth is I was SO relieved it was all just a sham that I couldn’t possibly be mad at her. It felt like she had just saved my life in a really weird, twisted way.
The bottom line for me is this.
I refuse to live in fear of what could happen. I fear enough as it is. If someone wants to find me that bad I’m sure there are a number of ways to do so. But my sister is right. I have to do everything I can to make them work for it. I cannot simply hand out all identifying information on my blog. I need to be more careful.
I propose we all take some time to clean up our blogs this weekend. I will be removing every trace of our unique last name from my blog…and I hope at the very least I’ve given you something to think about.
Wouldn’t want you to be next on my sister’s creepy power point list.
Let’s clean it up folks!