How It Is

The Privilege of Privacy

The vulnerability of my security is you. So stop it.

Ask 100 women online where the live, and the majority will give you a vague answer.




Orange County.

Those are enormous locations. While you probably could have found me in Chicago, if you asked enough people, you’d need to know a lot more than just the city. And now? Good luck. Most of my neighbors don’t know me. Their kids do, go figure, but it’s not the 1950s anymore.

The longer a women (or any minority) has been online, the less likely they are to want to talk about their location online. At least not in public. We get used to the constant, low level, shit throwing people say. People will ask what kind of ‘creature’ we are for posting a Vine, or call us ‘the hot one.’ It’s something I’m constantly pushing back at, and being vocally against, but it’s me against the world, and sometimes it’s a Sisyphean struggle.

But that doesn’t mean some people don’t have my home address. It means the people who do are people I trust and respect. I know that they won’t generally just show up at my house (unless there’s a crisis).

So what happens when you know, say, that I live in New Jersey and someone mentions WordCamp Jersey in a public chat?

You shut the hell up and don’t say “Hey, Ipstenu lives there, you should ping her!” No, you ping me directly and say “Hey, Billy was talking about WC Jersey. I thought you mentioned living nearby. Did you know about that?” And that way you give the public information to the private individual.

This seems to be an odd concept to people who come from a place of general safety and security. Yes, I’m talking about you, heterosexual cisgender white christian men. They tend to be the most flagrant abusers of personal information that I’ve seen online.

When I ran a forum, I had a rule that basically read like this: People’s personal information is just that, theirs and personal. If they say “I live in Wyoming” that’s cool, but you don’t get to speak for them. And yes, I banned people for violating that after they were warned.

Most of the time, personal information that is privileged is obvious. If I run a website, I have your IPs and email. I don’t give them away to ad collectors without your consent because that’s just a shitty thing to do. It’s unethical. In some places it’s illegal. That’s why you’ll get disclaimers on what information is tracked, or notes about how to opt-out.

But less understood is the concept that information you and another person discuss in private is just that. Private. It shouldn’t be. It’s basically the same thing. You are in a place of privilege where by you have access to information others do not. That privilege comes with responsibility.

So let me lay this out for you.

If someone tells you a thing in private, it’s not always yours to repeat.

If someone tells you a personal thing in private, it’s definitely not yours to repeat.

For example, if someone tells you “Hey, I think I’m gay.” you absolutely, 100%, do not EVER turn around and say “Oh, Bob? He’s gay.” That’s not your information. And that’s an obvious case isn’t it? Well, where I live is also an obvious case.

The Internet is filled with doxers and harassers and people who jackhammer Hollywood Walk of Fame stars. People are attacked online, usually on Twitter or IRC or 4Chan, every single day.

It’s your job, as the holder of privileged information, to be the secret keeper. Be the friend. Keep it to yourself. And for god’s sake, if they ask you not to repeat something, either don’t repeat it or tell them outright that you will probably forget, so please don’t tell you.

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