December 1, 2003
This Isn’t Your Teenage Daughter’s Diary
Blogging, short for “Web logging,” brings journaling to the Web. Through special software that allows users to write “directly” in the blog—no Web creation skills required—blogging has been popular for years among late-night types. Blogging recently made the leap to the business world, as evidenced by the two-day ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies Conference & Expo, aimed at medium to large enterprises, and the Harvard University-funded Blogs at Harvard Initiative, designed to teach faculty and students how to create and manage Web logs. Even Google (www.google.com) has jumped on the Web logging bandwagon. The new Google Toolbar 2.0 features a “Blog This” tool that allows you link a Web log to a page you visit.
A blog isn’t just a techie’s online diary; it’s a way for people to share a slice of their life—from corporate executives to homemakers.
As a relatively new Web-based tool, blogging raises definite security concerns. Too many tidbits of information over a collection of blog entries in one place can present a handy place for identity thieves, industrial spies, and other criminals. “Many corporations’ security officers would look at identity theft as a possible issue and advise their employees as to what type of information would be [properly] in place on the Web,” says FBI spokesperson Bill Carter.
If you don’t have a corporate security officer, use policy, peer review, or common sense as a guide. Read the blog with the eyes of the criminal, taking in unnecessary private details about where you live, work, or shop, where your children go to school, your habits, or when your home is unattended. If you’re writing a company blog, consider what you wouldn’t want the competition, clients, investors, or others to read. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
Employees who routinely handle nonpublic information are aware of the policies surrounding confidential information. Brian Huseman, staff attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, warns companies to be careful about posting e-mail addresses in public including on blogs. “E-mail harvesters scour places on the Internet, put addresses on a list, and send spam,” says Huseman, who suggests having a public address for posting but also masking the published address to make it more difficult for machines to harvest. For example, you can use “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “johndoe at ftc.gov” with a note to remove the “nospam” or change the “at” to @. E-mail harvesters can let scripts do the second step, but they seldom do at this time. Another option is to publish an image containing your correct e-mail address instead of using text that can be selected and copied.
Where do you blog? What does it cost? Some online services, such as AOL, provide easy tools to zip in and write your thoughts. And with AOL, people can read your ruminations from anywhere on the Web. (Type Keyword: “journal steps.”) Web hosts such as Lycos Tripod (http://blog.tripod.lycos.com) offer the same for their customers. LiveJournal.com is free if you’re invited by a friend. Regularly, it costs as little as $5 for two months. Blogger.com is