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Putting Yourself on the Web: Paranoid Musings

2009 March 24
by Natasha

I don’t know how much this has to do with gender, but it certainly has to do with technology as well as the idea promoted in this class of making your words public.  So, I just spent some considerable time not doing my math test and instead having fun with image modification in the python programming language using the Image module (free and availabe for download at the Python Imaging Library (PIL)).  So I have an image, all ready to put up in my profile showing my face in interesting colors: a fun mixture of technology and my (gendered) self (this kind of reminds me of Maddie’s discussion of the magazine pictures of women, modified by technology — cyborgs and creating technology and being (re)created by technology).  But I’m really pretty scared to do this.  I read Gravatar’s policy, and it sounds OK, it sounds like they and their third party associates are only using your information to help personalize to your interests.

But who knows?  Who knows what happens when you put your photo, linked to your name, on the web?  It’s probably out there already (fact check: there are indeed some photos later on in Google image of my name that do show me).  Jeez it’s weird enough putting my pseudonym name up on this blog and writing my opinions up for the world to see.  I’m probably just being paranoid, but what if some crazy person who hates something I say and hates me for it sees what I’ve written?  What if the government turns crazy and starts infringing our right to privacy (can’t say it hasn’t happened before)?

As a CS major, these things are certainly on my mind.  I bet they’re on other people’s minds too.  But I was just talking with a professor the other day about face recognition algorithms (which are awesome, if not a little scary, too).  The technology/CS of face recognition is constantly improving, and somebody could probably use such algorithms to find me or you and all the ideas we put up on the web.  It’s one thing when you’re completely anonymous, another when you have a pseudonym and not your whole name, but when you start linking your name to your picture and your picture to your words…. I can see some ugly issues there.  There’s a lot of love in this world, but there’s also some anger and misunderstanding too.

Now, I’ll probably, possibly calm down and put up that lovely profile pic.  But I just wanted to talk about it.  What do you guys feel about this whole putting yourself on the web?  Any place where the issue of privacy in web technology intersects with gender (eg is a guy more likely than a woman to feel safe on the web?  or vice versa?)?

2 Responses
  1. Baibh Cathba permalink
    March 25, 2009

    I agree, it was odd to hear that one of my friends recognized my posts through a story I had told.

    Also, yes, the internet is also a worry because of the public/privacy issue. Is this like the in-class conversations regarding Utopias? Is the internet then something that is “freeing” because people feel liberated to say whatever they wish as referenced in one of the older posts on this blog? (GAH! if you can find the reference to the Penny Arcade blackboard comic, I will credit aprops). The other side is government control (which Natasha points out).

    I think most people believe pseudonyms are anonymous, but once one is associated with a given penname, is it possible to ever be anonymous again? (What about all those cultures who attach importance to a name?)

  2. Alexandra Funk permalink
    March 25, 2009

    Similar issues have been bothering me all semester.

    In addition to the concerns presented here, I’ve been having problems reconciling my in class persona with my online persona. Normally I do most of my online writing/reading/commenting using a pseudonym. This class, however, has forced me (in my mind) to put my real name out there. I don’t want the “real” world, our class, to know my online identity, but I also don’t want to acquire yet another persona to maintain. What’s a girl to do?

    Privacy is a huge source of worry. Our generation needs to become more conscious of the things we put out on the web. (and although I am excited that classes like ours are moving to the www more and more, students and professors really need to consider what implications that will have in terms of identity, privacy . . . etc.)

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