I was minding my own business on Twitter one day, sifting through very unfunny #3wordsbeforesex tweets. That’s how I stumbled across @devlzadvoct. Her bio is listed as follows:
“VIEWER DISCRETIONIS ADVISED!! WARNING may contain foul language, partial nudity and obscene humor. It is not recommended you follow if easily offended.”
As any bored and remotely curious person would do, I clicked on her homepage. I saw some poems about her heartbreak from last month. I didn’t find her very interesting. The only thing that popped into mind was her usage of LiveJournal. So, without meaning to be mean or derogatory, I tweeted in jest:
“Who the heck still uses LiveJournal? It’s so…90’s. (Yes, I’m looking at you @devlzadvoct)”
No, I wasn’t trying to get with her (“I only alienate the girls I want to fuck,” goes the quote). And perhaps my humor was in poor taste. Anyway, this young lady apparently received my tweet in a very timely fashion. She replied, “That’s nice I don’t give a flying fuck”. She then proceeded to immediately block me from accessing her Twitter page.
I thought it was hilarious. She actually took offense to my tweet, which wasn’t written in mean spirit. Rather, I was just poking fun. She clearly couldn’t take a joke. But I suppose it’s not unusual for one who revels in profanity (her wallpaper repeats, “Blah, blah, blah. Good point but Fuck you anyway.”) to have a short fuse. This was my first (accidental) trolling incident. I had inadvertently offended someone by saying something that caused them to have a negative reaction, that of cursing me out and banishing me from their Twitter page. My gut reaction was to reply, “U mad?” Maybe I do have the troll gene in me…Anyway, I just wanted to use this as a springboard to mention online privacy. As you can see, it was quite easy for me to intrude into that girl’s life (no matter my intentions or her reaction to my perceived intentions). Young people don’t realize the ramifications of putting their lives online for everyone to see. Now, I don’t know how offended this girl was at my tweet, but blocking someone, after responding in unkind words, seems like the expedient action of someone who was, however minutely, negatively affected by me. When you put your life on the Internet, you’re opening up a big can of worms. All sorts of people are out there, and those who choose to make themselves known can be rather unsavory characters.Intelligence, or actionable information, is golden. The control of information is incredibly important. That’s why most every nation has an intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Collecting intelligenceonsomeone who puts their whole life on the Internet is a fairly simple task. This is why I remain relatively anonymous on the Internet. There’s no reason for me to release all that valuable information to the public. Yes, I am aware that anybody who is so inclined can probably figure out what school I go to (narrowed down to two possible ones) by reading all of my posts, some of which betray geographical information. I am also aware of a few other security holes I have concerning my identity. However, I do mentally filter out things that would reveal too much about myself.
Back to Twitter. I think it’s rather ridiculous to broadcast your GPS coordinates to anyone and everyone to see, especially when you’re posting a provocative picture like the one this young lady has on display. I doubt the cocking of her head, the high angle shot, her looking up at the camera, her coy smile, and her cleavage was some sort of accidental pose designed to show what a straight arrow she was.
I don’t know how many sexual predators have found their prey on Twitter, but to be honest, I would not be surprised in the least if Twitter is being used to find potential targets, the same way AOL chatrooms were popular hangouts back then. I have her GPS coordinates, I have her photo. I have her LiveJournal, which gives me access to a small insight into what she is like. If I wanted, I could get her IP address by gaining her trust to the point that she would click on a link to a website whose traffic I can monitor. Using social engineering, I can very likely narrow down where she lives to a small section of a neighborhood if the GPS coordinates are not accurate enough. All of these technologies make it incredibly easy for someone with bad intentions to go forward with their actions.
On another note regarding online privacy, it’s probably not a good idea to use the same user name for Digg and your dating profile. I found out one girl dugg some articles relating to STDs. Now, I don’t jump to conclusions right away, but it’s not exactly a good sign.
The main issue is identity management. Once it’s out there online, it’s incredibly difficult to control. Because there is so much emphasis on your online identity, and with your personal Internet history only a Google query away, it’s important to maintain a healthy level of control over your online life.
So basically, the takeaway is this: stay safe online. Don’t post your GPS coordinates, or if you must, keep it out of publicly viewable areas. Use different user names in order to keep things relatively untraceable, and be aware of all the connections between each of your identities.