Help:Privacy

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Private information

One concern regarding Fan History is that, because of the lack of notability requirements and the topic of fandom in general, people's privacy may be violated. This concern is one we are aware of and appreciate is a matter of sensitivity to many fans. Fan History generally recommends that people cite all their sources for information, avoid making statements about people which cannot be backed up by publicly available sources, and get permission before citing any form of private communication.

If there is a problem with private information showing up on Fan History, please contact one of the site administrators to look into addressing this matter and evaluate how best to correct the situation.

Including certain facts such as addresses, phone numbers, work information, and other details that an individual would consider personal is prohibited in the Rules of Fan History and will immediately be deleted upon alert to one of the administrators.

Public information

If information is public (that is, it is in an unlocked website or blog, a published book, or other source accessible to anyone without screening or password protection), Fan History believes it is fair and ethical to reference it. This means, if you have a LiveJournal account or FanFiction.Net account, any information that appears on those sites in a public post is acceptable as references. It means that if you have published fan fiction in a public archive, it is acceptable and ethical to link to those stories. It means if you can find that information on Google, it can be included on Fan History.

Many individuals may not be aware of how public their information is on the internet--and how difficult it may be to permanently remove information once it has been "released" to the world wide web. While some individuals have no problems with having their public information available to the world, or their personal information connected to their fannish identities, we are aware of the fact that this is an issue for many.

If you have reasons to be concerned about keeping your fannish identity separate from any connection to your real name and personal details, there are many steps you can take as an individual to help protect your privacy. You may even wish that your fannish information is only available and viewable to a limited circle of fandom in which you interact, and that no one links to any of your stories, blog postings, or other content without your knowledge or consent.

The extent to which one polices his or her privacy on-line is a matter each person needs to evaluate separately. The following suggestions, if taken to an extreme, would certainly restrict one's ability to interact in fandom to an almost negligible amount. However, they are points each person should evaluate and think about carefully, in deciding how much they want or need to protect their privacy, and avoid, as a result, potentially having their information (fannish or otherwise) linked to or included in a site such as Fan History against their desires. Many individuals are not aware of how much of their personal information may be available on the web; the following guide points a number of these out, and things one can do to protect oneself.

Ways to protect your privacy on-line

1. Assume that anything you post on the Internet may become public and respond accordingly. Assume some one may screencap it or discuss it elsewhere, even if the message board, fan fiction archive, mailing list is private and requires a password to access the content. Do not assume that any standards in fandom will keep people from revealing what you share, because standards can vary from community to community and someone with a grudge against you may share information against your wishes. Always assume that your loved ones, friends, employers, potential employers, the media or academics might be linked to anything you published on the Internet.

2. If separation between fannish life and personal life is critical, never share your real name in any way that can connect back to your fan name. Do not do it behind locked posts. Do not share it on private communities. Do not allow your real name and fan name to be connected at conventions (many conventions will allow you to go under pseudonyms only, although if you participate in an art show or other venue where money is exchanged, your real name may be required). Do not promote activities that your other identity is involved with. Do not assume that people will always respect your desire to keep your real name out of fandom, or that they would never accidentally slip up and reveal your information unintentionally.

3. Do not assume that general rules regarding internet privacy do not apply to fandom, or that, because of fandom, you have increased privacy due to fans realizing the importance of privacy. Cultural expectations for that differ from site to site, archive to archive, community to community, person to person. Do not assume that because it is fandom that web companies will honor what you see as cultural norms regarding fandom privacy. Fandom needs are frequently not the same as business needs. Fandom does not share universal rules regarding privacy.

4. Be careful in joining social networking services, many of which require your full name. Or be cautious by creating separate accounts, on such services, for your fannish and other activities. This includes MySpace, FaceBook, Bebo, Orkut, LiveJournal, InsaneJournal, LiveSpace, etc. Information on social networking is increasingly shared. Making the information on those sites more searchable and more accessible across sites is increasingly part of business plans for new web enterprises. The profiles on those sites also contain a fair amount of historical information about your experience in fandom. This includes groups you belong to, your interests, universities and colleges you attend, your age and other personal information. If the profile is publicly accessible, people can link to it. Any other information that is public on the site can be linked to by anyone, including complete strangers who you know nothing about.

5. Be careful in joining message boards or mailing lists, in particular how you register your account (name, birthday, etc). Many message boards create profiles. The profiles on many message boards contain a fair amount of historical information about your experience in fandom. This includes when you joined, threads you participated in, any contact information you include, etc. If the profile is publicly accessible, people can link to it. You might not like who could link to this information, and sometimes it is not possible to go back and edit or delete information which you would like to have removed.

6. If privacy is more of a concern than accessible audience, do not publish on any fan fiction archives that are publicly accessible. If it is publicly accessible, people can link to it and discuss it outside of your control. Your stories, name, and other information may show up in google or other searches, be able to be pulled by spidering and bot programs, and show up where you least expect it. Share your stories instead in friends-locked communities and journals on LiveJournal or InsaneJournal, or archives which require password-access to be read. That way you will have more control over who has access to your fiction, even if it means limiting your audience.

7. If you want to make sure only people in your fandom and who share your fannish interests access your sites, always make sure that you have robots.txt files which deny all robots from indexing the fan fiction archive you belong to, your personal site, blog, index, mailing list archive or any other site which you belong to. Most robots honor robots.txt files and won't violate them. If robots like Google and the Internet Archive have permission to index your site, realize that those robots.text files tacitly give the robots permission to copy everything posted on your site to their own servers. If you give them permission, either by not having a robots.txt or by intentionally giving robots permission, you probably don't have the control over your content that you need.

8. Check the robots.txt file of any site you publish on. If you do not like the robot.txt information, do not publish anything on the site. If you do, you could be giving companies like Google and the Internet Archive permission, whether you intend to or not, to copy your work and store it on their servers, way out of your control. It can take time to remove something from Google cache, and may not be possible if you are not the owner of the domain the cache was taken from.

9. Do not allow RSS feeds on sites where you post that might export your content to news aggregators and rss search engines. Some of these aggregators will, depending on the type of RSS feed you have, post the full content of your submission. This is the case for a site like LiveJournal and for scripts like WordPress. Some sites, such as archives using efiction, have rss feeds which announce new story submissions. You cannot generally control where these RSS feeds show up, nor always follow who is watching them. They might be included in obscure RSS search engines that you've never heard of. If you allow them or on a site that uses them in relation to your content, then you're taking control away from where your information and content is being shared.

10. If privacy is a major concern for you, keep personal contact in fandom to a minimum, or be very conscious and cautious about any personal information you share with anyone you do not know well or trust completely. A casual remark about a workplace, relative, or other situation may become an issue later on that you would not have thought about at the time.

11. Avoid participating in wank. Wank may get you unwanted attention and may make you enemies within the community. Wank may motivate people to share, break FLock and password community expectations. Wank may motivate people to share private e-mails and personal communications with others. Wank may draw increased attention to you and your actions. Avoid people who are known wankers. Do not talk about or give any known wankers your personal information, and ignore them if they attempt to involve you in a wank situation.

12. Learn about the people you are interacting with, including what you can about their involvement in fandom in the past. Check Fan History and Fandom Wank. Search on various search engines including Google, message board search engines, Usenet search engines and more. Make sure you know who you are dealing with and if you want to risk dealing with them. If you do not want to deal with the potential risks, avoid them and avoid their social network.

13. Always read privacy statements. Understand what they say. Realize what information you could be sharing and who could be looking at it. If you're not comfortable with it, then do not sign up for that site.

14. Realize that your every keystroke is likely being tracked. Google keeps records of every search you make. With services like gmail and adsense, a program picks up keywords from your content to give you contextualized ads. Companies like Hitwise get data from ISPs that is used to market to people. Most websites keep logs of every visitor that visits their site based on IP address and can tell which pages you visited and for how long you stayed. There are counters like ljtoys.org.uk, SiteMeter, GoogleAnalytics, Quantcast and StatCounter which allow blog maintainers and web site maintainers to track that information. The best way to avoid being tracked is to not visit any site which concerns you.

15. Regularly check sites like LjSEEK.com, pipl and Google to make sure your information is not included where you don't want it to be, and take steps to remove that material as you spot it. Consider subscribing to a service like Trackur, BlogPulse, Boardreader or Google Alerts to monitor where you are mentioned. Monitor pages where you might be mentioned for changes using services like versionista.com, or WatchThatPage. If the site where you might be mentioned includes a wiki using MediaWiki's script, register for an account, authenticate your e-mail address and then watch pages for changes. You will get an e-mail every time a page you watch changes. Even if you have previously requested a page or mention of you to be deleted, there is no guaranty that someone may not go in and add back your information later without knowing you did not want it there. That is why it is important to remain vigilant in protecting your information instead of leaving it up to others.

In general, the fact is each individual needs to be pro=active in protecting his or her privacy as industry trends, upon which the backbone of some fandom activities are built, are about sharing information and making things more accessible across sites. This can be great for fandom but if you're genuinely concerned about your privacy and the ability to control where and how people talk about you or the content you create, this can be problematic. Given that, it is up to you to maintain your privacy and where people link to you, as well as making decisions every day as to where and how you chose to interact in fandom.

Additional information

For more information on internet privacy, see EFF's Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy and HOWTO: Protect Your Privacy on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn.

To monitor if a page about you has been created on Fan History, Fan History recommends using WatchThatPage and monitor all variations of your name and searches for your name. For further information or with any concerns you may have regarding your information on Fan History, please contact an administrator.


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