When you comment on blogs, you are required to enter your email address. In many blogs the email address is a mandatory field to submit a comment. Many of us give our email addresses without any hesitation. This is because the email address is not displayed in any shape or form to identify you.
But, the use of Gravatars in the comments section has led to a potential privacy issue. For those who do not know what a Gravatar is, here is a quick explanation. Gravatar is an icon/image that is associated with your email address. You can sign up for this free service at http://gravatar.com. When you sign up, you are asked to associate an image to your email address. Gravatar.com will send you a message to your email to confirm that you are the actual owner of that email address. Once you have confirmed your identity (by clicking on link in the email), your email id is officially associated with the image you have chosen.
When you comment in a blog with the above email address, your Gravatar image will be displayed next to your comments. Many blogs nowadays have support for Gravatars. This means your Gravatar picture will pop up on blogs you commented in the past. For example, if you commented on a blog 3 years ago and that blog has been upgraded to support Gravatar, your picture will be displayed along with that comment.
This may cause some privacy concerns for certain people. For example, you may belong to a particular political party and you have commented extensively on political blogs. Assuming that you have always been using the same email address while commenting on all blogs. Now that you have a Gravatar image associated with your email address it will appear on all blogs that you have commented in the past. As a result your political views (that you wanted to keep private) are revealed to anyone on the Internet. This is especially true if you are well known by many.
This privacy issue is not the fault of Gravatar. It was caused by using the same email address for all your commenting needs. Here are 2 tips to avoid this problem:
- Use different email addresses for different purposes.
- Use a secret email address when commenting on blogs. This prevents any mischief makers from using your email address while commenting and your Gravatar image from showing up with their comments.
Having stated the above points, there is nothing preventing a person from using your image/logo with their email address. I am not sure how Gravatar overcomes this issue. Can a complaint be filed at Gravatar.com in this instance? Please share your thoughts and opinions.