Privacy and the Digital Age

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by Cheryl Wyatt

Since authors have been ushered into the digital age in terms of marketing expectations, I sought advice from Frank Ahearn, renowned skip tracer, privacy expert and author of How to Disappear, a book popular among novelists.

Cheryl: While most novelists prefer to remain in obscurity, the publishing trend toward digital marketing doesn’t allow for that. Have you advice for authors in terms of striking a balance between recluse and healthy online presence?

Frank: That is serious problem. We use to have two lives: personal and business. Now we have a third: digital. People need to create boundaries with the digital life and not bring their personal life into that world. Think of your digital life as a business life. If you work at Walmart you would not give everyone who walks into the store your contact information, photos of your family or anything that identifies you outside of work. That’s why name tags only have a first name.

Look at your on-line life as a corporation and only allow a certain amount of personal information online. A big mistake I see writers make is their blogs seem too personal. No one wants Annie Wilkes from Misery as a fan. Rethink what you believe privacy happens to be. If you have children you need to think about how your digital life can affect them.
Last thing, I’ve seen people post photos with identifiers like the family dog with the dog tag showing phone number, in front of their car showing a license plate and other such things.

Cheryl: There’s discussion among authors about leaving home (and therefore the safety of password protected Internet Networks) to write. Many sign in to public internet spots to check email as they write, such as Paneras, airports, hotels, Starbucks, etc, and the possibility of their Facebook, Twitter or Email accounts being hacked. Can you address this issue and offer preventative advice against hacking?

Frank: If you sign on to the internet you are at risk. I suggest my clients have more than one laptop. The personal laptop used in your personal life to pay bills, email the kids, family and friends. The second is a business laptop that you use for social networking and has no content connected to your personal life. A travel laptop that has ZERO information on it about you, specifically for public use that will not have credit card information, photos of your kids at the barbecue, nor the new WIP.

I suggest EVERYONE buy a standalone domain name that has nothing to do with you. Meaning buy and use their online storage. When you arrive at your destination, access everything you need. When time to go home, upload what you need to and delete the rest.

Cheryl: Thanks for your professional insight!

Frank: Thank you and remember some information online never goes away so think before you post!

To learn more about Frank, visit:

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, award-winning author Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance featuring Pararescuers. Her debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin’s Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers. Find more info or connect with Cheryl via Newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.

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