How much faith and trust do I put into online security measures? That's the crux of the matter I must consider. I just learned about the new website WebBiographies.com where you can essentially write and store your autobiography online forever (or until the company goes out of business). I'm considering the risks of recording my most private memories and personal data there.
The truth is, I personally know of individuals who can hack into pretty darn secure sites. Accessing this web site would probably be a breeze for them. Afterall, it's not like it's on a secure server like those used for processing credit card data. So to my way of thinking, I ought not put any information on that web site that I don't want known to the public even though I'm given the choice when I register to make my bio available to the public or not.
I make it a point to avoid writing about very personal information on this blog because I can't control what is done with my content. It's so easy to copy and paste text and use it out of context for nefarious purposes! I do have a journal that I write family events, personal feelings, and private memories in. But it's not an online journal. It's in a password protected document, on a password protected computer, that's on a password and firewall protected network within my Doberman protected house. Does that guarantee it's inaccessible? No. But there are a lot more layers of protection than what is offered at WebBiographies.com.
If only we lived in a world where we could count on and trust people's good intentions. I worry for those people who will put their faith into the security of the WebBiographies site. Many people will make their information accessible to the public thinking they are doing a service for those who might be searching for them online. But online predators abound! A widow writing about the memories of her dearly departed husband inadvertently identifies herself as a likely target for home break-ins or email scams (being a senior and likely living alone). With as little as a name and city a whole plethora of information is available for only $49.95 at intelius.com:
Sex Offender Check
Bankruptcies & Liens
Small Claims & judgments
20 Year Address History
Relatives & Roommates
And those who think to protect their information with a password are kidding themselves. Their information is accessible to the first (and every) hacker that takes an interest in them.
Out of curiosity I registered with WebBiographies.com so that I could get a look into the web site. It is a very nice site. It looks nice and it's pretty intuitive. There are categories for recording memories and you can create photo albums. You can upload a total of 10mg of information/images for free. After that you have to pay a fee. But hey, 10 mg is quite a bit of space if you use it well.
I put in some information and a bio photo and saved my information. I previewed it and all looked well. Then I tried to delete my information and couldn't. I highlighted and deleted all of the information I'd volunteered, item by item and then hit the "update" button. When I previewed the page, the information was still there. So I tried deleting my photo. Same problem when I previewed it... it still appeared on my bio. I repeated the same actions several times always with the same result. The information still appeared when I previewed the page. I thought maybe the page had gotten cached in my browser. So I launched a different browser to preview the page and found that the information and my photo were still there. At this point I was getting pretty frustrated.
I decided to try a different tact. I tried deleting just one item of data and hitting the "update" button. Bingo! Even when I previewed the page, the item was gone. I tried it again on another single item of data. Eureka! It too disappeared on preview. I'd found the trick! I tried deleting just my photo and updating the page but I had to repeat this 3 times to successfully get the photo deleted. The trick apparently is to delete just one item at a time from your bio but make sure to preview your page to make sure it actually deletes. If it doesn't, repeat the action until it does.
I'm relieved to have figured this out but I think it speaks poorly of the web site. How many other people will go through this same frustration if they decide to delete sections of their personal information and photos? What if you were to fill in all your personal data and then had second thoughts about the security risk and wanted to delete it? It could take you quite a while to figure out the trick and then repeat it for all of your data. Personally, I can't recommend the site. If you want to record your memoirs safely, I suggest you do it off line. And back it up on alternate media!