• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

24 August 2009

privacy: the continuum

I'm a very private person (says the Internet blogger). You know this. I've written about it here (and probably other places too).

But this is about a different kind of privacy. Identity, namely. Bf and I both take our privacy very seriously. If you were to Google Bf's first and last names, you'd find zero results. No Facebook, no Classmates.com, no Linked-In, nothing. Impressive, no? (He does have a unique name, so he is the only one.) When he does find something, he emails the company and firmly requests that they remove his name and info. I'm not quite that diligent, but I do try to keep my personal information's availability to a minimum. In fact, I almost didn't apply to blog for that wedding site I blog for because I was uncertain about publicly posting photos of my face. (I've yet to pop that cherry on this blog, after all*.)

I'm sure there are readers out there who don't know me, but who've figured out plenty of personal info about me. Maybe they've found this blog (even though many of the posts aren't the same). Maybe they know my wedding date (which we bloggers tend to keep secret until after the big day). Maybe they know a lot more. It's a little creepy, but it's the chance I take.

In case you haven't noticed, our wedding's pretty private. The picnic Bf's parents are throwing isn't, but it's not our party, it's a party graciously being thrown for us. One thing Bf has been especially concerned about is the photo we attached to the invitations we made for this event. He really does not want an engagement- or wedding announcement published to any local or regional newspapers, and this photo would be perfect to use for such a thing. So we took a drastic measure: we ran each of the 4x4 photos through our printer, back-side-up. On them we wrote the following statement:

Copywrite 2009. All rights reserved. This photograph is not to be reproduced or published without explicit permission. Permission may only be obtained by calling (555) 555-1234.

The [actual] phone number redirects to me. I am the photographer (er, my dad is, with my camera), so I can do that. The ink ran a little bit after printing, so Bf took the initiative to burn it in with a hairdryer. Now that's devotion to privacy. Will it work? Time will tell. Newspapers around here are pretty lax about that sort of thing. But we do snicker at the thought of a sneaky aunt or grandma trying unsuccessfully to have our picture published.

What's so bad about the newspaper announcement? Nothing really. It's a kind gesture that a relative would want to "shout it from the rooftops" that we're getting married. It just rubs us the wrong way. We both grew up in the same small town, and neither of us was particularly popular in that town, so I guess we'd both just prefer if most of our classmates and peers forgot we ever existed. We don't see what's so important about having a bunch of people we know nothing about see a photo of us, know what we do for a living and where we're going to college, know where we live, and all that jazz. (Yes, I am aware of how hypocritical this sounds coming from a blogger. No, I don't care. It's different. How? It just is. Shut up! :) )

While Bf's been stressing about the photo, my main concern has been the invitation itself. I have blurred a lot of the information before sharing it on the wedding blog (I'll share it here eventually too, just give me some time). But the actual invitation suites contain:

-Our first and last names.
-Bf's parents' whole names and address (and directions to get there).
-Our city of residence.
-What we do.
-Where we work.
-Where we go to school.
-The dates of our wedding and the picnic.
-And much more.

Obviously we want our guests to have this information. But what about anyone else?

As a rule, Bf and I shred every piece of mail that has our names on it. Any envelope, any bill, any ad for 0% balance transfers, any pizza coupon. If it's a package, we tear the label off and shred that. And when we finished working on our invitations, I shredded all of the left-over cards, mock-ups, and any other scrap that had any of our information on it. We're not just paranoid either. Our state** is contains three of the top 10 most common cities for identity theft. And it's not even a very big state.

I'm not going to kid myself and naively assume that our guests will be hanging on to our invitations forever. I certainly don't do this. But I do try to treat anyone else's information with the same respect that I treat ours. When a baby shower, bachelorette party, or wedding has passed, I shred the contents. I shred the envelope it came in too. Do I think for one minute that all of our guests will do the same? Nope. And there's not anything we can do about it. I briefly considered adding a little statement basically saying "If you're not going to keep it, shred or burn it," but decided it sounded a little too Mission-Impossible-ly. (Trust me though: implementing a self-destruct option did cross my mind!!)

Of course the invitations do not contain our phone number, our social security numbers or any passwords, etc. But the less information of ours floating around in a landfill or recycling center, the better. This is just something we have to let go. Just like the photo: there's a good chance the newspaper (if one is approached) won't even glance at the back of the photo. We've considered calling the newspapers and asking them personally not to publish us, but as of yet we have not done so. Like the shredding: we just have to let it go.

This post is a variation of one I wrote for the wedding website, and the comments I received on it were a little surprising to me. Several of the readers thought that Bf and I were going way too overboard with the privacy thing. Shredding names and addresses? Why? Someone even sent me a private message telling me how rude they thought we were being by trying to prevent people from publishing our wedding announcement in the newspaper. Sorry, but I tend to be paranoid.

And I think about worst-case-scenarios. I haven't even posted a decent picture of the outside of our house, for fear that someone might decide to obsess over us and locate it (how they'd do this, I don't know). My favorite blogs are the ones who are open and honest, even if it makes them controversial. Heather Armstrong is a great example. I admire how open she is, but I couldn't be her. I'd be too scared of stalkers, and too creeped out by the idea of millions of people knowing my innermost personal details. Maybe I'm over-thinking this. What do you think? Are you concerned about your personal information's availability to others?

*Wedding pictures, I think, will be the time. Not that anyone who doesn't already know me reads this anyway. hah.

** Which leads us to another issue. I haven't yet shared where I actually live on this blog. Do I share it? Do I not? I'm trying to move toward a more open and honest blog, but how can I do it without at least sharing my state of residence? Hmph. Bf and I need to have a talk about all this, I think.