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Mom blogs — Does posting photos online jeopardize your family?

Published: Monday, March 24 2008 12:20 a.m. MDT

Jordan Ferney's blog, Jordan Ferney's blog, "Oh Happy Day," features design tips, photos of her baby and clothing trends. (Jordan Ferney)
Jordan Ferney, a San Francisco-based event planner, blogs most every day about things such as her baby, decorating tips, clothing and her artist-husband, Paul.
It began about three years ago as a way to post links to her favorite Web sites and share "cool things" with tech-savvy friends. Now Ferney estimates her blog, titled "Oh Happy Day," generates as many as 5,000 hits per day. Technorati, an online blog tracking service, lists her site as one of its top 10,000 most-viewed blogs.
"It's been so great because everyone in my family has a blog," Ferney said. "I can see what's going on in their lives every day."
Across the globe, as many as 112 million people have a traceable public blog, according to Technorati. Here in Utah, bloggers cite a growing number of "mom blogs," where families post pictures of their children and tell stories about things such as their latest road trip.
 (Nicole Hill) (Nicole Hill)
But is it safe?
Researchers say it is incredibly difficult for information on the Web to be erased, including supposedly private documents and images. For some, there's the threat of cyber-stalking, and for many more, identity theft.
"Once something is on the Internet, it stays on the Internet," said Miriam Simun, research coordinator with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. "All the privacy controls give you a feeling of privacy, and to a degree, they do, but that information can be taken and stored on someone's server. Once it's put out there, you really have no control over it."
In general, Simun says the public should view their sites with what she calls the "80-20 rule."
If a site is correctly protected, 80 percent of the world won't be able to access that information. But 20 percent of the public, if they really wanted to, could access private information such as photographs, phone numbers, addresses or various identification numbers, she said.
 (John Clark, Deseret Morning News) (John Clark, Deseret Morning News)
"These are walled gardens, but technical people know how to get around these walls," Simun said.
A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows 47 percent of adult Internet users think it would be "pretty easy" for someone to find them based on information posted online. Another 29 percent of Internet users think "someone would have to work at it" to find their location with online information.
A majority of these Internet users, however, are not worried about the amount of information available about them online, according to the Pew study, which was published in December 2007.
For Veeda Bybee, a first-time mother and freelance writer, security was the reason she recently blocked public access to her family blog, the Veeda Weekly. It used to be accessible on most major search engines, but now only people she has invited to view the blog can see it.
Overall, Bybee said, she wasn't too worried about the information on her blog, which included pictures of her daughter, but wanted to be extra safe. She has a new site that is open to public searches and includes thoughts on toilet training, curly hair vs. straight hair, and links to various sewing projects.
There is no mention of Bybee's name on the site, and she has created a pseudonym for any posts about her daughter. She said her new site will be an outlet and help motivate her to write.
"A lot of moms are bloggers," she said. "I think it's a good use. It's another way to be creative, in a sense, and kind of share different things like advice."
Orem-based photographer Nicole Hill started blogging about a year ago and posts information about photography, design and decorating tips online. Her blog, nicolehill.blogspot.com, actually gets more hits in a day than her photography Web site, she said. And it's cheaper to operate.
"Professionally, it's to my advantage to keep it up," Hill said. "It's a creative outlet for me."
But she worries about the general safety of family blogs that are open to public searches. Hill says her site does not have a lot of personal information, and the only way a person could find her is to call a business number and sign up for a photography class she offers. Hill does not have children, and there are no pictures of her home on her blog.
"If you are going to have a personal blog of kids and and house, I would definitely do an invite-only blog," Hill said. "I think that can be dangerous, and I'm surprised how many have public blogs like that."
Jason Freidenfelds of Google's global communications and public affairs office said any person using Google's Blogger site can make her site password-protected and block her blog from being indexed by search engines. Likewise, Matt Mullenweg with WordPress.com said blog users on his site can also block access.
"All posts and all uploads — including pictures and video — to that blog will only be seen by people you specify. It's really private," Mullenweg said in an e-mail interview. "It's so easy to do. It's what I'd recommend for anyone who wants to keep things out of the public eye."
For Ferney, security isn't a worry. Although her site is primarily focused on design tips and trends, she just recently posted a picture of her son, Moses, from the day he turned 3 months old. Comments linked to the posting were from women who wrote about how cute Ferney's son was and also shared stories about their own children.
"It's more of an issue to get people to read blogs than to stop bad people from reading them," Ferney said. "A lot of people do those family blogs, and I could see how they could be more concerned, but I don't think there are that many people out to get people."


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com

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