Friday, December 05, 2014

What price privacy?

Hi folks,

Unusually for me, I've been away this week. I don't tend to travel much with work, well, other than the occasional short journey between offices. This time, however, a work-mate and I were off down south for a two day technical workshop. It was very good to be both out of the office, and doing my old job: that of designing solutions and making things better. Much better than making things more complicated, but that's by the by.

My overnight bag was, oddly, considerably smaller than the Thursday night bag I usually take. Just a shirt, some smalls, spare trousers and a wash kit. Compare that to the Full Mary that gets packed - nay, crammed? - into a much larger bag every other week. Either I'm not as fussy in bloke mode, or I find it easier. That, or perhaps a bloke's wardrobe is easier to put together. Less patterns, darker colours, etc, but maybe I'm stereotyping. (Ed: and that's not using the keyboard with both hands)

Who holds the key?
While away, I got talking to one of the system builders and we got into a chat about how people treat their privacy. Take for example this blog, it's public and I've revealed some personal facts about myself (depression, early life, struggling with being trans, etc) and yet, paradoxically, it's also a private space. Something hidden in the noise of the Internet and very much away from my home and work life.

So too do others, maybe not so much with blogs, although that happens to, but their personal data. People happily upload information into social media, photo sharing sites, or file synchronisation systems, without looking too deeply into the small print.

There's also a generational aspect to it, or, at least, that's what the software wizard explained. It seems the younger folk, or sometimes, tech folk too, are less worried about their privacy. Perhaps, having become used to technology, or maybe not as fussed over it, they happily sign up and use the service, trading their data and location for a 'free' service. At odds to that, are those less used to the technology, or those who wish to hang on to their private information.

Conversation drifted and I was reminded of a Radio Four programme, in which an academic researcher spoke about the concepts of privacy. The two extremes being your ability to lock everything away, against that of total openness. The idea of the latter, well, that gave me a brief jolt of fear. And then, pausing the playback, as I queued in the traffic, I wondered, what would life be like it we didn't have, or attempt to keep, the privacy to the level we do now. Who would be shocked by my dual life? Would anyone care? Would I care? If enough people - part-timers, like me - were out, would it be less of a thing? Would the gossip run dry more quickly? Met with a shrug or a nod, something as unsurprising as a day out in the park.

I read on a t-blog last month, the author merging their two social media profiles and the non-event it seemed to cause. Sure, there will always be the small-minded, but as we (hopefully) move on as a society, and indeed, as a race, are we reaching a tipping point were being trans just isn't a big deal any more? It is more that we make a big deal of it, struggling to work out how it applies to us and what it means for our lives?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Take care,
Lynn

14 comments:

  1. Hiding in plain sight.

    The likelihood of anyone coming across my blog is so small unless they already have an interest in this sort of thing. And even if they did, since there is nothing that personally identifies me to my male side, and they (probably) wouldnt recognise me in my photos, I think im pretty safe.

    I think generally for me data privacy is more about minimising the risk of being caught out as being trans by other people in my life, rather than what companies do with my data. So I am concerned about potential overlap between profiles/accounts, how what I view online may affect ads and marketing that is presented to me (to avoid questions like "why have you been looking at dresses?"), or anything else that might 'catch me out'. Whereas any other data is far as I am concerned pretty harmless, and a small price to pay for being able to use the services I want to make my life easier/better/more fun. I just have to be aware of what im signing up for.

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    1. As you say, anyone looking for trans blogs, I guess they'd have a reason to be doing so. Hopefully more an inclusive reason, rather than something a bit... umm.. dodgier!

      As to the two accounts, I use two different browsers for that very reason. If I didn't, chances are I'd post something to the wrong page and then the cat would well and truly be out of the bag.

      Would someone spot you? I think this has been spoken about on this blog (and elsewhere) and I think it's easy for us to see through the slap and the wig, to ourselves underneath. In real life, I got changed back at Chameleons and when coming back down, a someone mistook me for the caretaker and didn't make the connection between Lynn / Richard. Would that be the case for everyone? Maybe, maybe not, but I don't think I'd like to put it to the test! :-)

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    2. Haha, well if they are looking for that kind of material they are in completely the wrong place!

      I have two browsers on my ipad, one that is password locked that I use for my T stuff. On my laptop I just rely on using 'private viewing' mode on Firefox to keep all trace of my T activity hidden. I dont really use social media as Aimee, so have no issues with the potential overlap, especially since Facebook can be a little dodgy in this area. Other things to consider I guess is GPS tracking apps/facilities on mobile devices, I always have GPS off if im going out somewhere dressed up so no-one can see where I am.

      I dont take risks with what I sign up for, but then there are very few services/websites that really give me a cause for concern with the data they capture, but the ones that do concern me (Facebook for example), I dont use. Im just sensible and am aware that there is a 'give and take'.

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    3. I've never really used private browsing, well, other than for testing systems at work. For home, I use a browser from portableapps because it keeps all the data in one place. Whatever works for a person. I knew one (t)person who used a different log on on their computer. That's another way I guess. :-)

      Depending on what phone you have, that's enough for you to start building a profile on your movements. Google Now is a good example of that and it soon works out where you've been and even, where you might go (trips to mother-in-law's house, time to go to work, etc). Funny how so many of us aren't so bothered.

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  2. I changed the profile photo on my "boy" profile on Facebook to a "girl" photo a few weeks ago, with no negative response. I had previously posted "girl" photos there, but the sharing of those was "friends only", versus everybody being able to see a profile photo. As a consequence, I'm seriously considering getting rid of my girl profile entirely, and I wouldn't be too upset if Facebook decided that it is a "fake" and deleted it.

    About the only thing that I'm deliberately not doing is posting my (relatively rare) male first name on my blog or anywhere else directly related to crossdressing, as Google would inevitably pick that up and anybody doing a google search on my male name would end up finding my CD related activities. While that might not matter all that much, I see no reason to put myself in that position.

    As you said, there is so much "noise" on the internet that hiding in plain sight is quite viable. You just have to be prepared for the fact that there is a real chance that somehow a link could be made that would result in all that information being connected to you by people who you may not want seeing that connection.

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    1. Hi Alice,

      Can I say that merging your two profiles seems incredibly brave! I hope that goes well, if you do. Have you had any feedback - good or bad - about this?

      I think I'm with you on the blog front and privacy. Social media, that's one thing; perhaps, more constructed / controlled that our blogs? For me, at least, blogs seem a lot more personal. Which, I guess, is somewhat ironic because while they don't link back to a personal account (directly), they are open to the web, unlike social media.

      I suppose one day, the risk might happen, but then, if we worried about risk, would we do anything at all? I guess it's balance (again).

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  3. I don't really care about hiding any more. Not online anyway. At least not to the extent of trying to hide. If someone finds my blog and recognizes me – well, so they do. There's even a picture of me (stop our silence selfie) to help them out now.

    On the other hand, I don't add my surname to the default poster "Jonathan", so I can't be found directly through a web search. So now I'm thinking about why not. I'm tempted to go and add it, but it just feels wrong.

    Posting under a first name alone seems more ambiguous somehow, in a way that a full name doesn't. A full name says... well, what it says to me unequivocably is "guy", and that label "guy" needs a whole load of explaining and qualifying before I'll happily accept it. Ticking the "M" box on a form always grates as well. Probably no one else will get this, but "Jonathan" just feels more vague and feminine, and that's important to me. So I think I'll leave it as it is, and continue hiding a little.

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    1. I think some folk don't care about hiding, and some decide they don't want to. That's cool too. I guess about you not using your surname, what would you gain in doing so? Would it link back to what you do for a job and do you care about that, if it did? Ponder, ponder.

      I'm with you on the M box on forms. Inasmuch as my pen hovers a little before I force myself to tick it. It doesn't seem 100% correct, although most forms - other than trans research ones - tend to be 'are you male or female'. There's never an option for 'yes' or 'sometimes' :-) Then again, I've seen ones at work and previous employers that requested information along the lines of sex and gender. I couldn't bring myself to fill that out honestly, because (working in IT), it felt more like entrapment, than a survey. I'm sure it wasn't the former, but fear is a powerful thing. Even now, I'm not sure I could.

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  4. Hi Lynn and Co.
    When I thought about letting Abigale go online I put a few dummy accounts in place that chain together before “I” turn up. I’m not paranoiac and I’m not naïve either in thinking I’m “protected”, but a little ingenuity is worthwhile as long as you can remember all the passwords! The maximum “where there’s a will there’s a way” will always hold true and one must always consider this.
    When Abigale started out it was a few comments to posts and that was that, low profile. With the blog it was a stage further in letting Abigale having more say. I was a little hesitant at first, especially when I knew I would reminisce on my past (which I will continue to do) and someone could put 42 and 42 together and get whatever it adds up to. And what would it add up to? I’m not sure if I would be that concerned if someone profiled my online presence to my offline life. I would be embarrassed if it got out among the close English offline friends, but they know me long enough and anyway I think they also know I’ve a little more femininity in me than some other of our friends. My main concern would be Mrs. A. and what that would bring with it..
    Here in Germany I very much doubt if someone would catch on. Actually this afternoon I was looking at the Blogger stats and someone came in unexpectedly. I was not quick enough to close the browser, so I just let him see the screens (all 4 of them). I made up an excuse that I was looking after a girl friends blog from the admin side. We talked about difference tracker systems and I showed him what I had configured. I don’t think he cottoned on.
    To go back to your first commentator here from “a part time girl” (diversion: isn’t it funny how different we are, me with a name but no picture and “a part time girl” with a picture but no name or have I miss something?). I have bought all of Abigale clothes and makeup under my boy name from various shops in the net and now when I google I get adds popping up in the side bar offering blouses, dresses, heels, all very nice of course, but not good when Mrs A. is sitting next to me! Yes one must weight up the positive and negative aspects of it all. I don’t think my movement in the net or in the real world is an issue for me. I don’t have a Facebook account. +Google, the blog and Pinterest are enough social platforms for me, I try to keep it simple if I can.
    I think Alice you are going the right way in harmonising in your own way and time, your boy and girl profiles. It’s probably a good idea to do it before google gets around to doing it for you! Your boy account popped up on my google profile some time ago, yes your name is rare and Scottish I believe. Good luck in this, you will keep us informed of course.
    Jonathan, as Lynn said, there is no need to add a surname, mine just happens to be my middle name and that’s it. Keep to Jonathan, I’m just Abigale to everyone here, anyway I think it’s cool that way, you should as well. I don’t hover over the tick box, its F when I have a dress/heels on and M with trousers (without taking into consideration on what I have underneath them that is…), I see myself as both and it depends on what the form is for, one has to stay flexible!
    I once ticked both boxes (on a paper form), I go a funny look and with an aural “woops! silly me” corrected it.
    For the life of me I still can’t remember what I corrected it to..

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  5. ...both boxes...

    Hmmm. Why not draw an extra box on and write 'other' before ticking it? Would that help get the message through? :-)

    Using another browser - or using 'Run As' under Windows, to launch another (hidden) profile - may help with your advert problems.

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    1. With the browser I’ll look at that, what about private browsing or is this too restrictive?
      Ah an extra box, yes good idea, this ticking has got my mind ticking about variations on this. I have spent a good part of my working life creating forms for clinical data capture and what really annoys me is the illogical, contradictory and dam right idiotic forms that I have had to fill out from hospitals and authorities with stupid remarks like “well then write the correct answer in the margin or on the back” when I complain and ..
      [Ed: Oh dear it’s the old troubles starting again, I though the therapy had finally worked. You’ll have to excuse us. I’ll get her to write a post on this, it will help to augment a new therapy cycle]
      .. It’s so unfair …
      [Ed: Yes, yes I know, now calm down, I’ll put the kettle on, you look for your pills]
      Ok, if you say so.. but I ..
      Ok ok, I’ll look for them just don’t look at me like that…

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    2. If you're an IT wiz (or nerd, like YT here), then the private mode - at least in the early releases - wasn't as private as we'd been led to believe. It'll probably keep a few people out, but it's a play off between convenience and personal security. Is it best to keep one browser for 'her' stuff and another for every day use? Or, is it best to use Private Mode and hope you remember to keep it sorted? YMMV as many say.

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  6. I own a pair of net curtains and frequently clear my cookies, which may give some idea of where I stand. I use two separate browsers to keep the professional and personal apart, there is a little bleed between the two but nothing indefensible.

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    1. You know, I don't think I've trashed my cookie collection for ages. Maybe I should.

      I've been using add-ons such as PrivacyBadger and others from the EFF. They seem to help, although with Adblock, it's hard to tell ;-)

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