Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Gravatar Privacy Issues

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Most of my regular readers know how paranoid I am about my own privacy. I use throw away email addresses for many things, because I know that nothing comes for free (TANSTAAFL), and whenever anyone offers me something for "free" if I only provide my email address, I have a pretty good idea what's to become of it.

On this site, I do not use Gravatars, opting instead for the WordPress plugin Simple Local Avatars. In the comments for Site updates & more updates!, we had some discussion of Gravatar accounts, and I've always believed that while the use of a throw away address might provide some level of anonymity, true security from such things lies in avoiding them altogether (likewise, I do not have a Google+ account or any other social networking account - anywhere).

I've recently had to create a Github account (probably the subject of a future "I can't stand..." post), in order to contribute to the latest work on bringing the Mozilla browsers up to the latest code base on OS/2 (a topic for a future discussion), and noticed some really odd looking avatars. Further investigation revealed that in order to change one's avatar on Github apparently requires a Gravatar account (how nice). This got me thinking again about Gravatar and my privacy.

Sparing you the gory details here, I present to you a few links of interest in this regard. Please feel free to review for yourselves and make your own determinations as to whether Gravatar poses too great an invasion of privacy vs the convenience it provides in terms of providing a cute little picture of oneself:

One Man's Blog: Protect Your Privacy, Delete Internet Usage Tracks (Comment 46204)

Meta Stack Overflow: Can we use non-gravatar avatars?

Github / thedod / Mingle wiki: Gravatars considered harmful

Ars Technica: Got an account on a site like Github? Hackers may know your e-mail address

With all of the NSA nonsense (as if that should have come as a surprise to anyone), I choose to take the "ounce of prevention" stance.

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