In my own name…

There’s a certain amount of hubris to running a website in your own name. It certainly makes you easy enough to find (*cough* #1 search result for Jeffrey Tharp on Google *cough*). It means there’s nothing to hide behind when you make a mistake or take a position on an issue. All you have is your good name and the words you choose to make your argument. When it’s your name up there in the address bar, you’d better Harrassmentbelieve there’s an incentive to get it right the first time. In more than seven years of blogging, I’ve never posted anything to this site or the ones that came prior to it that I was ashamed or embarrassed to see running with my given name in the byline.

Of course on the internet it’s easy to be mostly anonymous. It’s easy to fire off a comment or an email when there’s no apparent accountability. The truth is, nine times out of ten there isn’t any accountability. That’s just one of the charming ways the internet is still like the Wild West.

With that being said, it is my personal policy and the official policy of jeffreytharp.com to refer any and all comments that are threatening or of a harassing nature to the sender’s service provider with a request to cease and desist and to preserve copies of all associated posts, comments, and emails for use in any criminal or civil investigation and/or litigation that may arise as a result of failing to comply with this request. We are not going to be drug into the ugly internet business of feeding the trolls, regardless of how tempting that might be.

I reserve the right to edit, modify, or delete all comments that do not comply with WordPress terms of service or that I deem inappropriate, harassing, or threatening. I continue to encourage feedback, discussion, and open debate about the issues, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to open this blog as a free for all. If that’s what you’re looking for, I suggest you go buy your own domain name, set up a website, and rant about how unfair life is on your own nickel, because you won’t be doing it on mine.

Yea verily I say unto you, here endeth the lesson.

Illusion…

I can see from the outcry that’s been consuming the world wide interwebs this afternoon that Google must have done something that someone, somewhere decided was evil. Yawn. So what? Google is a multi-billion dollar company working hard to build additional value for its shareholders. Google might own and operate file sharing and storage sites, a ridiculously reliable (and free) email service, blogging platforms, online productivity tools, social media and gaming sites, and its own phone company, but don’t think for a minute that any of those things are really Google’s main business line. They provide all of these things at no monetary cost to the consumer because they are, ultimately, in the sales and marketing business. Their business model involves nothing more scandalous than matching up buyers and sellers for just about any product or service you or I can imagine. Instead of the targeted billboards and newspaper inserts of yesteryear, they use giant server farms and targeted web ads, but it’s really just using a modern means to achieve an age-old end.

From what I’ve been able to gather, sometime a month or two from now, all of us that use Google will be opreating under a new privacy policy that covers every site under their corporate umberella. Personally, I think that kind of cross-platform fusion is precisely what the internet is supposed to be about. Why shouldn’t my experience with Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, and the rest of the Google family of sites be exactly the same instead of each having its own, slightly different take on privacy. If nothing else, the new universal policy will let us all know precisely the position Google is taking. Then we can make an informed decision about whether we accept that policy or not.

If it turns out I can’t live with the new privacy policy, as big as they are, Google isn’t the only game in town. I’m pretty sure I could still dredge up the password from my old Hotmal account if I really had to. Then again, they’re a free service run by another conglomerate who’s trying to sell stuff to me too. Maybe it would be better if I just bought my own mailserver and managed all my own correspondence through JeffMail.com. Alternatively, I could find a company with a privacy policy I believe in and pay them cold, hard cash to provide me all the services that Google wraps up under one umbrella. None of those things seems very likely to happen, though. Instead, I’ll click “accept” when given the opportunity and continue my life without giving it much more thought.

The internet isn’t your house. What we’re doing here isn’t happening behind closed doors, especially when we’re not the ones who own the servers, routers, and other equipment involved in bringing the world together electronically. We certainly have an expectation that companies will make diligent efforts to protect our personally identifiable information like social security and credit card numbers or our account passwords, but expecting an ironclad veil of privacy surrounding our online habits and interaction is, in a phrase, dumber than dog shit. Here’s some helpful advice from your kindly Uncle Jeff: If you don’t want people to find out what you’re up to, don’t do it online. I promise that Google, Facebook, the deposed Nigerian prince, your long lost cousin from Dipshitistan, and possibly the CIA are watching.