Sunday, June 13, 2010

Respecting Reader Privacy

Privacy is a very important matter for us in the spanking community. I stand by my kink and I do not regard what I do as in any way wrong, sick or immoral. Still, I write under a pseudonym and I take other measures to protect my identity, because I do not want every work colleague, neighbour, former school classmate or other casual acquaintance who for whatever reason decides to google my real name to know about my intimate fantasies or see pictures of me spanking my girlfriend. Pretty much all of us spankos feel like that - we are okay with sharing our secrets with others in our community, even strangers, but not with everyone on the planet. So we use nicknames. It is a matter of privacy, not of shame or morals.

I am as fiercely protective of the privacy of my blog readers as I am of my own. For instance, I would never, under any circumstances, give the identity of someone who writes an email to me under his real name to a third party. That would be an inexcusable breach of trust, and for me, a reader's trust is sacred. If you send me emails under your real name, you do not have to worry. They are safe with me. Still, if you plan on corresponding with many different people, I would urge you to get an address under a pseudonym. While most of us spankos are as principled on matters of privacy as I am, not everyone is.

Actually, to my considerable displeasure, I find that there are a few bloggers in our community who are outright sloppy when it comes to protecting their readers' privacy. It is obviously the result of mere thoughtlessness, not malice, but that is not much of an excuse. As spanking bloggers, writing about such an intimate and private subject, we really should know better. We have to be unfailingly sensitive about issues of reader privacy. You can be reckless with your own life and take as many risks as you want, no problem - that is your business. But when it comes to the privacy of others, we have an obligation to be as circumspect as possible.

Which brings me to the subject of today's rant. I notice that a bad habit is spreading among spanking bloggers, and it is annoying me a great deal. The bad habit is called Live Traffic Feeds: little add-ons that display the geographic location of your blog visitors and the time they visited, publicly, for everyone to see. They are provided by companies like, and more and more people are adding them to their blogs. "Hey, a feature where I can see where my visitors are from! How cool!" Bloggers who use the feeds are, apparently, unconcerned by the fact that everyone else can see the information, too, or that not all of their readers might be pleased to see their whereabouts made public like that.

When I visit a blog with such a Live Traffic Feed, I show up as "A Visitor from Munich, Bavaria" or something to that effect. Which is not a problem in my case - from the very beginning, I made it public knowledge that I am from Munich, it says so in my profile. But not all of us spankos are fine with their city of residence being known. My girlfriend Kaelah, for instance. When she became active on the blog, we jointly decided to not let the readers know what city in Germany she is from. She just feels more comfortable that way.

Now, if Kaelah were to leave a comment on a blog using a Live Traffic Feed, then anyone who looks at the blog around the same time and sees "A Visitor from So-and-so, Germany" on the list could make a pretty good guess that this is her. Kaelah was pretty disturbed by that realistation when it came to her recently - like quite a few others who surf the spanking blogosphere, she had not even noticed that such feeds are being used. Sometimes, the visitor lists go back several days, depending on how many visitors a blog has had recently. With the applet by, one of the most popular specimens, you can access a longer list by clicking the "Real-Time View" option. Like this list recording visitors to the website itself.

I just had a look at a similar Feedjit list from a spanking blog, which went back five full days, faithfully chronicling everyone who had come by during that period, the exact time of their visit, which website they came from, their browser, their operating system, and which website they went to when they left. I suppose you could make some pretty accurate connections between any recent comments on that blog and cities of residence, if you wanted to.

Sure, you can choose the option to "Remove your IP" from such a live traffic list (which I recommend you do if you have clicked the link above). And there are other methods to prevent being "seen", like disabling cookies in your browser. However, as soon as you are assigned a new IP address by your internet service provider, or clear your cache, you will be recorded again. It is annoying for you as an internet surfer to have to implement such protective measures time and again, all the more so because you should not have to implement them in the first place. Information about you should never be made publicly visible without your consent.

Indeed, companies like have a funny definition of terms like "consent" or "voluntary" when it comes to recording information about people. What it means in their diction is that you can ask to have your information removed from their lists, after it has been recorded. But of course, you are never asked whether you want information about you to be recorded in the first place, and many surfers are not even aware that this is happening. Live Traffic Feeds can be difficult to spot on blogs, as they are usually pretty far "down".

You might ask, what is the big deal? It only says "a vistor" and what city that visitor is from, no names or IP addresses are given. Nonetheless, it is a violation of your readers' privacy. However small or harmless that violation may seem, it should simply never happen. It is a matter of principle. Or at least it should be for bloggers like us. Regardless of the subject we blog about, but all the more so when it is a sensitive, intimate subject like spanking. Besides, not all cities are as big as Munich, with some 1.5 million inhabitants. There are plenty of smaller ones around the globe, and there are cases where Live Traffic Feeds even display which exact part of a city a visitor is from. So even a seemingly harmless, vague piece of information like that could turn out to be a danger to a reader's privacy under the wrong circumstances.

Yes, it may be improbable, yes, it may be unlikely. But we as spanking bloggers have a responsibility to take these issues seriously. We have to operate with worst case scenarios in mind. We have to be sensitive about what we do. The point is, it might affect someone else's life. When spankos like Kaelah or I decide to blog about what we do on the internet, show our faces, even put out videos, then all of these are risks which we consciously and voluntarily decide to take. If anything negative happens as a result, we only have ourselves to blame. What pisses me off, though, is when the risks are increased, however slightly, without our consent, simply through the thoughtlessness of others. I believe that most of you in our community feel the same way as I do about their privacy. Wouldn't you like the decision about what to share about yourself to remain, at least as much as possible, in your own hands?

I thought so. That is why Live Traffic Feeds have no place on a spanking blog (or on any other blog, for that matter). If you as a blogger are curious about how many people read your stuff or where they are from, there are applications which run in the background and record the information in a manner where only you, the blog owner, can see it (well, actually, the software company which made the application can usually see it, too, but let's not go into that - I don't want to get too strict on you). However, under no circumstances should such information ever be made public.

Here at Rohrstock-Palast, I respect the privacy of my readers. I will never use Live Traffic Feeds or similar gadgets that compromise your privacy. Moreover, I will try to limit any links I have to other blogs which use them to a very small number. I am not going to "boycott" spanking blogs with Live Traffic Feeds outright, because I regard that as too much of an over-reaction (besides, it would require me to constantly check my links in case someone adds such a gadget). However, if you have a spanking blog, and if you use a Live Traffic Feed, your chances of going (or remaining) on my link list will decrease significantly, no matter how magnificent your blog is otherwise.

End of rant. Have a nice day.


Richard Windsor said...


I will try to respond to your email tomorrow. Now while I don't have much time to digest your thoughts right now as I am about to crash, thanks to the Universe I am happy to have found your post :-)

Real quick in relation to your post here, you probably need not look any further than my blog as the source of your complaints. I believe that I was the first one to add this widget three years ago, and most of the bloggers that you see with this widget I believe grabbed the idea from my sites.

That said, I will respond in kind to your email and share with you my thoughts on the subject.

Richard Windsor said...

While I will still reply at length with my thoughts to your post, you will see that the live feedjit widget is no longer visible on any of my sites. It is still running in the background so that I can continue to use it for the purposes that I require, but it is no longer visible to my readers.

Ludwig said...

@ Richard: Rest assured, it was not my intention to single you (or anyone else) out as a culprit. I don't believe that any one spanking blogger is to blame for the rise of Live Traffic Feeds in our corner of the web. They are simply one of those fashions that become popular one day.

If you search around the web a bit, you will find that there are numerous discussions about Live Traffic Feeds in the "vanilla" blogosphere as well. They are a controversial topic. Many people don't mind them, but there are also quite a few (myself included, obviously) who don't like them because of the issue of privacy.

Like I said, I think that we as spanking bloggers should be especially sensitive to things like this. So, I would like to thank you sincerely for making a good example and removing the public Live Traffic Feeds from your sites.

Indy said...

Ludwig: I suspect that most of the bloggers who use the live feedjit widget live in large metropolitan areas with a reasonable degree of anonymity and have simply not considered that broadcasting the location of their readers could be problematic. Hopefully this post will raise awareness.

Richard: Thanks!

Richard Windsor said...


I want to respond in full but I have to get ready for work, lol, so it will still have to wait. Real quick though, when I first got your email the first thoughts that went through my mind were thoughts of conspiracy theorists and a certain level of paranoia. Even to a point where I had my hands extended saying to myself "Que?"

Now with that said, when I read your post last night you will see that there is a one hour break between my replies. The reason for that was that I put "Feedjit privacy" into Google and indeed I found numerous threads on the subject. Now even though I still think that such thoughts are a little extreme, I read enough to realize that there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with such a program.

I guess a part of my reasoning prior to that had been that I had actually used this program for over 3 years now, and not a single word had been mentioned to me by anyone. You have to bear in mind that in those 3 years I have had something like a million visitors with not one comment about the feedjit program.

Regardless though, I pride myself on my honesty and integrity, and if, as I saw, it is a problem for enough people in many various sources, then my reasons for using it are pretty insignificant when compared to someone's privacy issues.

Richard Windsor.

indy said...

Richard, FWIW, I simply do not read blogs with Feedjit on them, no matter how good they are. I've actually been meaning to write you to ask you to remove it from Spanking Universe, but I never got around to it. I have seen this issue arise in a discussion on Bonnie's My Bottom Smarts, and I was not alone in that view.

Thanks for removing it!


Kaelah said...

@ Richard:

Thanks a lot for hiding the Live Traffic Feed on your blogs! I wasn’t aware of some bloggers using such an add-on until a few days ago when I discovered Feedjit on a spanking blog for the very first time. That made me take a closer look on the other blogs I frequently visit, among them the Spanking Universe, and I realised that the blog I had discovered first wasn’t the only one using Feedjit.

I spent some time trying different ways of hiding from Feedjit, but none of them led to a satisfactory result. So I informed Ludwig about my discovery and told him to be careful about Live Traffic Feeds. And I decided to reduce my visits to blogs with a visible Live Traffic Feed to a minimum. The fact that you’ve hidden Feedjit on your blogs makes life much easier for me, because it means I can use the spanking updates page at the Spanking Universe regularly again to see what is going on in the world of spanking blogs! :-)

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Good observation, Ludwig and Kaelah. We'll all be more private now that you've raised awareness of this potential security glitch in the spanking-internet operating system

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good topic. But I think the answer is not to hope for nice blog owners but to defend oneself once and forever. Here are two ways to do it.

1. To block (only) Feedjit visits, get the Firefox Extension called Adblock Plus (ABP), and manually add to "Preferences" these two lines:


After that, as long as you have ABP enabled, any site using Feedjit won't see you at ALL anymore.

2. To get rid of all trackers please check here:

Hope that helps.


Richard Windsor said...


My initial reaction was a little bit of shock to be honest with you, especially being that I had used the feedjit widget for 3 years on my sites.

Now I don't think the use of it was thoughtless, rather than naivety on my part. When I first started to use it I actually thought it would be a good idea, and even a fun little tool for my readers to see just exactly where everyone was coming from. As time went on however I found the tool to be an excellent idea to track where my visitors were going.

The only purpose for that was due to the simple fact that I do indeed market websites for additional revenue. When I would use a post specifically for marketing reasons, I used the tool to see whether or not I was directing my visitors to the targets I was intending them to go.

Of course there are many tools for achieving this anyway, the feedjit one just seemed the simplest because it was right there and easily accessible. Not one time did I think that it was potentially compromising the privacy of my readers. I guess a part of that was some of the sharing of private information that I was already aware of, the use of feedjit seemed to pale in comparison.

Coincidentally, and just slightly off topic, but so far online I have seen people share the names, phone numbers, personal court cases and alleged personal charges of third parties. This whole practice of sharing even the remotest detail of another's personal information just sickens me, especially in our community. What is worse is that some of this information has been released by producers of videos. Long ago I vowed that should I ever witness anyone divulge the personal information of another, then I will never work with that person under any circumstance. Not through fear of my own personal information being divulged, but simply based on principal.

Anyway, once I read that some readers of mine felt that the use of the widget in question compromised their privacy, I of course was very happy to remove the program. Any information that I need for marketing purposes is easily available to me through my stats program, so if I need to look something up I need go no further than there.

Now on my site I did direct people to this post, so hopefully it will make more blog owners aware of what may be perceived by some of their readers as a breach of their privacy. Hopefully other bloggers will follow suit and also remove the widget. After all, most of them took my lead by adding it in the first place ;-)


Ludwig said...

@ Richard: Thanks, again, for removing the live traffic feed and for taking this whole discussion in the spirit I intended it - not as a personal attack or as a knock on your blog, which I think is excellent, but simply as a raising of awareness about a topic which I consider very important.

You are right that the emphasis by people like Kaelah, Indy and me on privacy protection can seem a bit over the top at first sight, even "paranoid". I might have said much the same thing a few years ago. But I have grown much more sensitive about the topic since then, and nowadays I think that, unfortunately, there are very good reasons for being a little paranoid.

Governments, employers, corporations keen on advertising, and your friendly neighbourhood hacker are doing enough as it is to create the perfectly "transparent" web surfer. Let's not make it any easier for them than we have to.

@ Anonymous; You are of course right in pointing out that we cannot rely on all the blog owners and webmasters to be conscious of the topic and protect our privacy for us. Ultimnately, as internet surfers, we are responsible for ourselves (in that regard, thank you for the Feedjit workarounds you posted).

Still, I think that raising awareness among fellow spanking bloggers is a good idea, obviously.