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SecretAgentMan: Who is watching you?
As a boylover, the responsibility for your safety rests squarely on your own shoulders. No one else is going to watch out for you, take care of you. In fact, there are plenty of people that will be actively watching you. The more you reveal, the more people you can assume are watching you. It's not being paranoid when they really are out to get you.

The only reasonable way to approach this game is to be paranoid, to assume the worst, and this starts with an awareness of who may be watching you. To begin with, we know there are vigilantees that read the BL forums and try to gather profiling data on each of the posters.

It's not dishonest to use a pseudonym, or to change the details of your personal life. You don't want to misrepresent yourself to your online friends. You don't want to dilute the support and friendship that you can find online. But the practice of misinformation, changing harmless details that matter little to anyone who is not trying to track you, is a common practice and well advised. And of course don't put out too many accurate details about your personal life. The BL community understands reluctance to supply personal information.

There are two aspects to online safety, privacy and anonymity. Privacy is hiding the content of what you say and what you do online from prying eyes. Anonymity is hiding your computer's identity from those that would try to trace what you do online back to you. The remaining two sections of this series deal with each of these subjects in detail.

So let's consider who may be watching you. Even if the forums you post on don't keep data that can help to trace where you are connecting from (most all forum software does), the webserver that hosts the forum does. This is in the form of the infamous IP. The IP is a number (a series of four numbers, each in the range of 0 to 255) that identifies your internet account with your ISP (your internet connection company). In a school or business setting, it easily identifies the exact computer being used. From home, it can identify which ISP account was using which ISP modem (they have hundreds) at that exact time. Each time you connect, you are temporarily assigned a different IP (you connect to a different modem, a different circuit). But the ISP has logs of who was connnected to that IP at what hours. Some ISPs will hand out that information anytime they are asked, some ask for a good story from a complaintant, and the better ones insist on a court order from a judge (any small-town judge will do). So the IP does identify your ISP account, and probably the phone line you are using to call in from.

Even without the cooperation of your ISP, the IP usually identifies, to anyone who wishes to look, the city where you are connecting to the internet (your town or the major city nearest you). Everytime you request a webpage from the internet, your IP is included in the request (so that the webserver knows where to send the page). Additionally, your IP is clearly visible everytime you send an email (with most email providers). The third section of this tutorial explains how to trace an IP yourself.

Internet packets (small chunks of information) can be sniffed (listened to) by anyone connected to the internet with the proper connection and software. The most common packet sniffer is the government. Whether they are randomly searching for words like "terrorist" in email, or capturing all packets to a BL forum, their computers can flag certain words for human attention. If you are a "person of interest" to local authorities, it is not beyond reason that all packets to and from your computer may being monitored. Paranoid? Probably, but that's how the safety game is played.

Now not all participants in a BL forum are boylovers, even though most appear to be boylovers (another reason to be cautious about befriending people online). Open discussion from the anti-BL crowd is common as well. Just posting on a forum is not an indication that you are a boylover. And certainly the webserver logs of who reads a BL forum, who views the forum, does not necessarily indicate anything.

Who else could be watching you? Your employer, if you surf from work. Your school administration, if you surf using school computers. Your librarian, if you use a computer on their network. Your family members or roommates, if you fail to clear the "history" cache in your browser when you are done. Your computer repairman. The police, should you come to their attention for smiling while walking past the schoolyard, and they confiscate your computer just to have a look around (don't laugh, it happens).

This brings up another threat that severely limits the boylover's ability to seek out friendship, support, and spiritual healing. What happens when your friend gets his computer confiscated? His email monitored? What traces of your life and your identity lay undiscovered on some else's computer?

The bottom line? Enjoy your time online, discover the ever-growing number of BL resources, and improve your ability to deal with your lifestyle, but
be aware, be vigilant, be paranoid.

Questions? Email to secretagentman@hotpop.com or post on the discussion board here at AgeTaboo. Don't be afraid to ask.

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