Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bloggers Beware? Oops! I'm So Scared I Just Wet My Pants and I'm Not Wearing Depend!

Some DiploPundit readers wrote us about a letter in this month's Foreign Service Journal from a sorta kinda mid-pyramid type official which contains issues for the Foreign Service bloggers. It's not meant to scare you or anything but you should read the piece a hundred times just so the idea sinks in.

One of the "troubling blog entries" cited in the letter is that "Members of A-100 classes blog about their colleagues." Oh, petty, petty!  As far as I can tell, those newbies are so tickled about being asked to join the club and are so impressed by the talents/credentials of their new colleagues that they can't help themselves. They're on training for godsakes!  As long as they're not posting the names and addresses of their colleagues, and not scratching each others eyes out in each others blog (wait, how do you do that?) can we really blame them for their exuberance? Oh wait, apparently, some can.

And if I had any reservations previously that the Bureau of Consular Affairs had a hand in the demise of the dearly departed, Madam le Consul, I don't have one now:

The sorta kinda mid-pyramid official writes:

"Others are posting information that could lead to identity theft. One blogger, “Madam le Consul,” revealed in various entries her exact date and place of birth, her assignment history, her health issues, and other personal information. Though “Madam” took her blog down following rants about a policy issue that were not in line with official views, it did not take long to figure out who this “anonymous” blogger was."

Oops, I just fell off my chair! I read "Madam" every single day when she was alive and I don't think she ever posted her SSN, real name or address either. Silly, "Madam" and now she's dead, how are we supposed to steal her identity? And in the aftermath of her online death, they still speak ill of her. Perhaps remembering their knee-jerky kicky reactions on a true to goodness blogger with personality sharing the same floor with them?  And so the same writer who complains about A-100 members blogging about each other, wrote about his very own colleague in the same bureau, Madam le Consul. Excuse me, perhaps I should say, former colleague in the same bureau?

Of course, it could not have taken long for the Bureau of Consular Affairs to figure out who "Madam" was.  But was this official writing from inside knowledge? I don't know but he is a sorta kinda higher pay grade official in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Madam's home bureau.  I am so impressed about the concern that blogging could lead to identity thief. An official in that same bureau apparently was so concerned about identity thief also that he/she "outed" Madam le Consul's real identity somewhere else in the Internets.  No, not in State's OpenNet but in something bigger, in the wide open-lanes of Facebook! Which is like wow, that's Brainful Dead! The official later deleted the "outing" after he was presumably overcome by his own brains. But I know who you are, dude; I can see through your concern.

I would have had more respect for this writer had he just said, "Madam blogged against regulations and we canned her." Don't give me that hokey-fakey concern about possible identity thief because goddammitt I'm not buying that, even in a fire sale, SIR!

Of course, you should always be wary about oversharing of personal information online since you don't know who is reading. Readers and followers could just be friends and family members and regular readers but could also be blog stalkers, counter-intel folks harvesting information, adding 1+1 and all that, or Feds with nothing better to do than leave anonymous comments about danger! danger! in the FAM.  Be sensible about personal privacy/security SOPs. Not just in blogs but in your other social media accounts.  Have you recently reviewed the privacy settings in your FB account? Why don't yo do that now?

Also, in line with that concern, you probably should sign up for credit report monitoring because if you did not know it, the State Department had a medical data breach relating to approximately a quarter million medical records. Your medical records.

So what you did not write in your blog, could still leak out online, courtesy of the State Department's eMED. Life can be funny that way.

The letter writer was clear that he is not "calling for the prohibition of FS blogs." But has the following couple of suggestions. Listen up:

"[...] if being a pundit is your calling in life, apply to The Huffington Post."

What a great, great idea! Sorry, he did not include HuffPo's HR number.  But should we presume then that if EFMs can get punditry gigs at The Huffington Post, that the State Department would stop harassing them and their spouses with threats of all stripes? An official response would be nice so I can help ask Arianna for a Foreign Service Lives tab in the Huffington Post.

Another suggestion -- "And if you really need to write down all of your thoughts about official policy or the negative attributes of your A-100 classmates, I suggest doing it the “old-fashioned” way: in a diary kept under your pillow."

Well, that certainly is an excellent suggestion which reminds me of that University of Michigan campaign of "Just Don't Do It!"

But... but ... the horsy has left the barn!

Instead of scaring the heck out of everyone including FS Grandma (I supposed a perfectly good intention for somebody in that paygrade), some real tips on the responsible use of blogs and other social media would have been more useful.

But that would have been too much to ask, especially since there is already an easier answer: "Just Don't Do It!"

NOTE:  For a couple if readers who are under the misimpression that the letter writer may also be the author of a recently departed blog, let me just say that I know the blogger and he is not at all related to that letter writer, god gracious me! And even if I did not know the now silent blogger, I know he would not have such double standards especially on blogging.  I'm fond of that guy! He would also never, never single out a specific FS blogger as prime example just so you can appreciate the carcass of a dead blogger and have nightmares! Sorry, I'm told I misunderstood and spoke too soon.  No one is confused about the identity of the blogger and the letter writer. Thanks for the corrections.  I would still say this -- none of my blog pals in the Foreign Service would ever single out a specific FS blogger as prime example just so you can appreciate the carcass of a dead blogger and have nightmares. Please write that down.


Jen said...

People confused NDS with the letter writer? Seriously? Wow, sorry to hear that, as there is simply no way NDS would ever do something like that....and that was clear to me in his writing, though now, of course, he is completely off-line. Sad, so sad.

Digger said...

Anyone who thought NDS wrote that letter doesn't know him.