The light of a new Moon

Moonlighting is closing her blog.

Evidently after her comment on CCG’s blog, some individuals took it upon themselves to prove to her how easily she could be identified. The amount of effort they spent, and were willing to continue to spend, as well as the implied threat to her privacy, were enough to cause Moonlighting concern.

Now comes the additional fallout. How many other providers with blogs will close their blog? How many more will censor what they have to say, simply because they wish some privacy? I cannot see CCG continuing her blog after this, and I would not expect they will be the only two.

Perhaps Moonlighting did have a false sense of security regarding how well her identity was cloaked. I wonder in driving that point home until she felt harassed, vulnerable, and frightened really did any good. Or perhaps those who sent the emails felt they were somehow morally and intellectually superior.

What I see is another voice silenced. More stories lost, more words unspoken. Another chance to see, learn and grow destroyed by pettiness and ignorance.

You are precious Moonlighting, you will be missed.

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Hiding in plain sight

Considering the rather lively response CCG has received in her comments about staying anonymous, this concern is not far from many blogger’s thoughts. With at least one blogger taking down her blog due to her anonymity being compromised, this is not just paranoia.

Note, in his comment on my previous post, echos the difficulty CCG brings up on her site; how to write what you want to write, with out giving out to much identifying information. Be it that most of the bloggers listed here use their blogs as a type of memoir, that is not an easy thing to do. If you have an experience that is important enough to you that you want to write it out, changing the details is a way of changing that experience, and perhaps, diminishing what made it so powerful. However, if the one written about is some one you fear would hurt you or even kill you if they saw what you wrote, there is a strong motivator to hide who that is!

So, there is no easy answer to this problem. However, there are ideas and strategies that can be put in place. I am sure some of the writing and stylistic tactics are already being discussed on other forums. As I find them, I will include the links in posts here, but for the moment, I think the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else) is a good start. Most of the ideas they discuss are technical, and deal with hiding the IP address of your computer and posts. I am not a computer security specialist, but I have worked with several, and from what I have learned from them and read on my own makes me strongly recommend any blogger who wishes to remain anonymous to at least use TOR. Ethan Zuckerman’s A technical guide to anonymous blogging – a very early draft provides greater detail on some of the steps recommended in the EFF document. I would also highly recommend using Hushmail or some other encryption for any emails which deal with business matters.

I am not sure, given active steps by bloggers, and the limited resources of those who would wish to pierce one’s anonymity, that it is inevitable that a blogger would be outted. There are many bloggers who have kept who they are and what they write about from being exposed. But the saying, “Three men can keep a secret, if two of them are dead” does hold true. Exposure is a risk, and one that can have very telling consequences. How much one is willing to risk is a choice each individual blogger must make.

UPDATE: One other tactic to consider is using a service such as PookMail to obscure a “primary” email address and the attached identity. Considering there still are a plethora of free email services out there, having multiple accounts for different uses is relatively simple to set up (ePrompter is excellent for this if your computer is not shared). Also, be proactive – consider Googling yourself on a monthly basis. See what comes up, and if the reference is one that may inadvertently provide information you don’t wish to share, consider asking the site where the reference is to remove it.

UPDATE 2: A little more digging led me to TrueCrypt, a free program that allows you to encrypt the entire contents of your hard drive. Also, there is Eraser, a free program that over-writes an erased file several times to make it extremely hard to recover by law enforcement or other individuals. Note, I do not say impossible. There is reason to believe the encryption for Pretty Good Privacy, (basis of encryption used by Hushmail and GNUGP) has already been cracked by the NSA (and other nation’s intelligence agencies), and there are instances already in the public record where usable information has been recovered from hard drives over-written to DOD standard. However, it is likely that individuals seeking to “snoop” or even a local constabulary, would find the results of these tools more than what they were capable of defeating. Also, think about using Skype. Skype to Skype voice conversations (while not always at “phone quality”) are encrypted (if you set your settings properly), unlike standard phone calls.

Keep in mind, the harder information is to find and reach, the more incentive there is to find an easier target. So don’t be the easiest target! Any other updates to this will appear on a new post.

How thin the veil

Clandestine Call Girl (CCG) is thinking of calling it quits. Confronting the likelihood that some one may read her posts, and make a guess about herself or one of her clients, she is considering closing her blog.

Wrestling with the issues of anonymity and privacy is hardly unique in the blogging world, but becomes of extreme importance when the author is a sex worker. The issue of not only their own privacy, but the chance of a client finding themselves identified, along with the awareness of law enforcement, or other unwanted and unwelcome attention, makes this a tough issue to deal with.

Different bloggers have taken very different routes on protecting their identity. Several, such as Veronica Franco, Elle Wakefield, and Eleanor Ashton, are quite open, with pictures and/or contact information being at least linked to on their blog. Others, such as Laura, are quite careful about how much detail may be in a photo they share. Alexa, Olympia, and many more, share they are in the New York City area, but carefully ration any other clues. Melinda clearly states she actively changes details to hide any identities, while Moonlighting will not even mention what country she is in.

While it may seem far fetched at first glance that any one would bother trying to identify a blog author, it is not with out precedent. Belle du Jour was the focus of a very intense effort to out her, and remains the subject of some speculation.

Frankly, I don’t want to lose CCG. She a gifted and engaging writer, and has created a consistently amazing set of stories and essays. However, I do not envy the risk she takes every time she reveals a bit of herself on-line. What ever choice she makes, she contributed greatly to this genre. Stop by her site, read what she has shared, and let her know if she goes, she will be dearly missed.

Don’t talk about it

According to CNet, the Bush Administration is pushing for all websites that have on them or provide “sexually explicit” content, to be required to have “official government warning labelson them, or the website owner will face prison.

In a way, I find this a bit on the absurdly humorous side. Can you picture a little “Registered with the Department of Justice” logo on New York Hotties? Or a picture of Alberto Gonzales‘s face with “I have reviewed this website” on The Rentboy Diaries?

Irony aside, this isn’t going to stop Jimmy Swaggart from being tempted, spare the Southern Baptist Convention any embarrassment, or preclude any Catholic priest from abusing his station. It won’t stop one rape, or prevent a child from being molested, but simply make it harder to talk about issues that need to be debated and discussed.

Once upon a time, the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” actually meant something. I wonder what Mr. Gonzales thinks the word “liberty” means when he says the Pledge of Allegiance. Look at the last definition. Think that website will need approval?

The future as we make it

I had a brief email exchange with Sophia this week asking for her feedback on the direction of this blog and what has been done so far. She had a very interesting idea on making this blog into sort of a feed, where it would provide the latest and greatest posts from the highlighted bloggers.

Initially, I did not think that would be something I would be able to do. Ideally, that probably would be an AJAX mashup, combining a blog layout with RSS feeds from the listed blogs, similar in form to what the Punterlink & Escort blog sites already do with their in-house content. To do that from scratch would be beyond my abilities. Now I’ve found out Plum seems to be moving toward offering just such a system. They are not yet in public beta, but I certainly will be watching. Then again, maybe I’ll win the lottery and be able to hire some one as tech savvy as Jet Set Laura to run things. However, if you read this and know of any other options, please leave a comment.

A tip of the hat to Low Profile Girl, who would appear to have started before me in gathering many of the links that appear here. Her focus is slightly different from this blog, so for those readers who are providers, and those seeking to be clients, reviewing her blogroll would be a good place to start. She also has set up what I consider a very good template for WordPress.com blogs dealing with adult subjects. I had already started on the drafts of something similar to what she has set up. This blog while still on WordPress.com will slowly move to a format comparable to hers.

Links are work!

Well, with some of the free time I had on the weekend and Monday, I was able to do some searches for links of interest to this site. I ended up adding over thirty different links, which I hope helps provide readers with different references and perspectives on sex-workers and the issues of prostitution.

I am finding that the categories I have set up to deal with links probably need to be revised. Many blogs, while having very good posts, have not been updated in quite awhile, and are probably defunct. So eventually, a category will be set up for those. Also, there are a few sites, some not added yet, which are related to subjects here in a tangential way. Coming up with criteria that would allow me to include the most relevant, without overwhelming the site with to many links to be useful, is proving to be daunting.

I have sent in feedback to WordPress.com requesting they add the capability to add in SafeLabeling.org, SafeSurf.com, and Internet Content Rating Association ratings to both the entire blog and individual posts. I have no idea how this will be received. I am not a fan of filtering software or censoring content. But I do believe what a child should be exposed too should be a decision left to that child's parents. I suspect eventually the evolving tagging format will supersede content rating, but at the moment, rating systems offer the most unobtrusive means to responsibly participate in the Internet community.

On a personal note,  thank you to Melissa Gira of SacredWhore.org for being the first person to add this blog to del.icio.us.  It was on my to-do list, but hadn't quite got there yet. However, I did manage to add it to imp.etuo.us.

Now if I could just get to, too, and two consistently right…

Easter vacation

It would seem interest in sex-for-pay is a tad low over the Easter holiday. Stats indicate only one visit for the day, but I understand WordPress.com was down for quite a bit of the weekend.

In lieu of a proper post, Greatreporter.com provides an article on attitudes toward lingerie sold by 'Agent Provocateur' and 'Coco de Mer'. The Smoking Gun dishes the dirt on how one Hooters trainer reportedly suggested ways for employees to make extra cash, and The Roanoke Times provides a deeply insightful bit of reporting on a man with a bad case of puppy love (note the lawyer may actually have it right). I'm sure at least one of these articles is a shoe-in for a Pulitzer. Or at least equal to Bill O'Reilly's Polk award.