Everyone who watches the news at all, or reads any news blogs, knows the U.S. government is watching everybody. Their computers read your emails and postings on the net. They monitor all our phone calls. They know what you read on the web and what your search terms are. That's just the way it is, and it'll never go back to "the old days" when they weren't allowed to do all that. I strongly suspect they did anyway, but it's a moot point.
I have a friend who doesn't blog anymore because his blog started getting lots of hits from government agencies. Now, maybe it was just bored bureaucrats surfing the web. Or maybe it was not very nice people looking for someone they could turn in and score some points on their evaluation. For reasons I mentioned on a previous post, I don't really worry about the government anymore. I'm a prolific letter writer about political issues that I feel are important. Even if I didn't use the internet at all, I'd still be on the "list".
What I am more concerned about is individuals. There are some really strange people out on the internet. I mean strange as in mentally ill. If you aren't careful, you can wind up with one of those who has dedicated himself or herself to causing you all the trouble they can. Some of them have the skills to cause a lot of trouble.
My first blog, which I had many years ago, got me into a conflict with a group of Neo-Nazi "youths." My crime in their eyes was that I was supportive of Israel (my experiences in Lebanon, let alone events since then, make me less than sympathetic to militant Islam.) These nice people were able to get my phone number and my mailing address. I won't go into the sordid details, but just imagine what you could do to annoy or embarrass someone if you know those two things. Among other things, they made threats against my family. Who do you report that to when the people doing it are out of this country? I never did find out.
So I shut down that blog, changed my phone number, deleted the gmail account the blog was registered to. I assume they found someone else to annoy. There was no denying, however, that they shut me down and since that was their declared intent I guess I lost that round.
The next blog I had didn't end unhappily, but I did have some issues with operational security. Not everyone who nails you between the running lights means to do it. I was careless with some comments I made, and with some photos I posted. One day a fellow figured out exactly where I lived, and as a joke he posted it on the net. Now, he didn't mean any harm. But there were some unintended consequences of that act that were irksome. I had been warned by several friends on the old blog that I was saying more than I should, and it turned out they were right. It's just better to be discrete. You can always use point to point email to pass sensitive information to friends who ask.
The people you wouldn't want to know where you live are out there, though. Some good advice I was given years ago was to remember when I write a post that you never know who will be reading it.
I just got an email from a long time friend who warned me that I was doing it again. So, I've got to try to be better about Operational Security. I never do things like posting a picture of someone without their approval, or compromising other people's privacy. But I do have a tendency to be careless and I need to watch that. I don't want to wind up listening to the Horst Wessel Leid on the phone at three in the morning again.