A private blog

Monday, February 19, 2007 at 19:50 | Posted in Blogosphere, Journalism, Personal, privacy | 4 Comments
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A lot of bloggers say that their blog is private. Many of them say that they do not need to consider what is apppropriate to write in their blog because the blog is private. But what sort of a blog is private?

I do not have much of a problem with that sort of considerations. Anything I publish under the public domain is written under same proffessional considerations as I would apply when writing for a printed paper or a main stream web media. In my blogs I apply exactly the same journalistic ethical standards as I do when writing for a main stream publication.

The difference is that in a paper an editor would be legally responsible but in my blogs I am the responsible editor. Also, since the blogs are mine, I take more of a liberty to express my personal opinion. But just as in a paper, if I am mediating news, I stick to facts. In a column I could express personal views. Of course most of my blog posts are columns in that context and reflect my opinions, not anybody else’s.

Another question frequently asked by bloggers is how much information they can publish about other persons without their consent. The Estonian parliament recently adopted a law regulating personal data. The law does not specify a media (i.e. print, air or web) in saying that personal information can be published without the subject’s consent if there is a public interest for publishing it. I like that definition.

Last June I published personal information about Sweden’s then Prime Minister Göran Persson who was a crime suspect at the time. There is no doubt that scrutanizing his failure to comply with a law which he as a politician had been an active author of was in the public interest. The same mishap could have happened to any honest house owner, but a prime minister stumbling on the very bureaucracy he has participated in creating is something of a public interest.

On the other hand, if I were to hear a domestic fight at my neighbour’s flat through the paper thin walls, there would be no public interest to expose my neighbours. I might mention the fight but I would not publish their names, nor anything else that would make them easy to recognize. That would be unethical, possibly also illegal.

Not every blogger is a journalist and I suppose a non journalist blogger could say that they do not need to consider the journalistic ethics. But a teacher or a physician should definitely consider his or her proffessional ethics while blogging. A secondary school teacher in Øvre Romerike outside Oslo in Norway may have published something in his blog which contradicts the ethical standards of a teacher.

The teacher is said to have published personal details of his pupils in his blog. According to some information, some of the published details would even be covered by official confidentiality. He is not formally suspended but as long as the inquiry is going on, he is not allowed to teach. There is a chance he will be fired. A union lawyer from Oslo has travelled to town to assist him.

The case of this Norwegian teacher illustrates that some bloggers do not understand the difference between private and public. In addition to my several blogs accessable by anybody in the public domain I also have a number of private blogs, as in real private. They are being hosted in my server and protected by a robot.txt file and passwords. I share some of those blogs with a few selected friends but there are one or two with access for myself only.

Any blog which is accessable by any web user and searchable by search engines is not private although the blog’s author may think so. Anything that has been published in the public domain is indeed public. And you should by all means think twice about what sort of information you want to make public.

Sources:

Geirsan in his blog and in a comment to my post

Verdens Gang

Romerikes Blad

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4 Comments »

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  1. This is clarifying, even though you are stating what should be obvious. Question is whether 90% if all bloggers even consider the question. Many blogs are extremely personal, and not very protective towards the bloggers themselves or the people they write about. In the blogosphere freedom of speech seems to be the mantra, but the editor responsibility part is quite the opposite.

  2. Obvious for you and me but I doubt if even 10 % would join us. Freedom of speech is the most important thing in the World and Internet made it available for everybody. There are people who write things in the web that they would not say or write in “the real World”. Maybe some of them do not realize that the web is the real World.

    I choose to apply journalistic ethics to my blogging, taht is my decision. I am utterly against all attempts by governments to regulate the Internet. It can not be done.

  3. Which purpose does a “private” blog (access only by its owner) have?

  4. To be a true private diary. Many bloggers describe their blogs as “private on line diaries”. Well, they are not private if they are in the public domain.

    I have some notes that I do not want to make public. I want to have access to them where ever I am. That is why I have my private blogs. My public blogs are intended to be read by anyone, my private notes are not.


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