Paper versus computer journalling and privacy

Hi, I am new here and would like some advice before I make a decision I may regret later. I have journalled for years, always on paper. Ever since I had my diaries taken out of my handbag at work when I was eighteen and my colleagues photocopied them and passed them around the office, I have been wary of my private writing being snooped on. I have had no evidence on this happening since but it has made me wary. I have however, continued to write in notebooks. A few years ago I got paranoid and destroyed ten years worth of journals which I deeply regretted afterwards. I started journalling again and keep my journals in a locked tin, just as I did with the others which I destroyed. I live alone but still worry about my boyfriend finding my journal when he visits and there is the worry of who may find them after I am gone, someone will have to sort my things out.

Recently I decided to start journalling on my laptop, deciding it would be more secure to have a passworded document that I can write anything into without fear of it being found. I decided this after a friend of mine decided to do the same thing through having the same fears as me and she finds it successful. I did start to do this but then missed my notebooks and went back to those. But I still have the worry of privacy and not only this but my hand does ache when I write for a long time and therefore I don't write all I want to do anyway in one session because of this, also the notebooks will pile up with time and its where to store them all. I would like to get into computer journalling - any ideas on how to do this and enjoy it? And, if I do get into computer journalling, there is still the question on what to do with my old journals, I certainly don't want to destroy them and regret it again. I have now just bought a printer/scanner/copier in one and am wondering if it would be a good idea to scan my old journals onto my laptop and then destroy them, but that will be a labourious task as I have quite a few journals.

Any advice would be welcome.

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Do you want them to last?

It's hard to tell whether your journals are for continued use, or just a place to put down your thoughts that you don't necessarily want to live for a long time.

But, computers fail. And software gets old and hard to run on new computer systems. I'm a huge geek, but after multiple drive crashes, and, even with backups, losing things (do you notice when a corrupted file gets backed up? Hard to do...), I'm less and less confident in the current technology for data and software longevity.

It's really up to you, but I've turned to preferring paper for longevity, at least as a backup. I haven't quite figured out how to keep photo archives that way, after having been a digital photographer since the early days of digital photography, but I know of at least a couple of photos of my son that are already probably gone forever....

If you do decide to archive on your computer, remember that it's not really stored safely until there are 3 copies (2 backups + original); computers don't do well in fires (so store one of them physically away from the computer); and make sure at least 1 of those backups runs automatically, because everyone forgets to make backups regularly unless they're automatic.

Hi, many thanks for your

Hi, many thanks for your reply. Yes I do want the journals to last. I am now wondering whether scanning my old journals onto the computer and destroying the hard copies is a wise thing to do. I thought once you put it on a back up memory stick or disk it would be OK.

Do you tend to keep your photos on disk too? Now I tend to keep mine on the laptop and just print them out when I need them for framing etc. You’d think that new technology would allow us to store things wouldn’t you?

So the journal privacy remains an issue I guess ?

How hard would anyone be looking for your journals?

On a computer, the trick is to bury the file way down in some sub-sub-sub directory with a name that no one would ever bother to open. Like, oh, AX24128PRR.DLL

Yeah, it'll be less than convenient to open and write in it -- probably have to change the extension to .txt or .rtf or whatever each time, but short of a law enforcement agency doing a full out search, nobody should ever come across it.

For a paper diary, I read of a neat trick. Buy some hardbound book, again something that no one is likely to want to read. Just any old boring thing from a used book store. Then you carefully cut out the 'text block' and create a new one of blank pages of the right size, and paste it into the existing cover using new endpapers. Then just shove it into your bookcase.

I'm pretty sure I saw good instructions on how to do this on Instructables or one of the other sites like that, google should turn it up.

*sigh* Did I only say I was

*sigh* Did I only say I was a geek? Actually, I study how to build security systems that are actually usable/understandable.

And there's been a lot of recent work in my field that shows that people trust this "burrying" and similar approaches. And, it's probably enough to keep a completely casual observer from finding something, but nearly useless against anyone who's really looking (ie, don't let me or any half-decent computer geek near it, unless you never actually edit/read the file). We call this "security by obscurity", and it is rarely a good way to achieve actually security.

It's *probably* better to use a decent (but widely available, ie, ZIP-based, off the top of my head) password/encryption system.

That said, I also personally ascribe to principles of reason, or "threat modeling". In other words, is anyone going to have access/reason to read your diary? It probably only makes sense to scale your countermeasures to that. If you're famous and/or rich, be more careful. Otherwise, the risk to your computer has more to do with someone trying to use it to send spam, or to steal your bank account details (... so don't keep those in your journal...)

To the question about hard drives/flash memory: nope, they don't last. I've made a habit of saving out the hard drives of older computers when I get rid of the computers, for privacy reasons. I recently had a bunch of them destroyed, but checked which ones were readable before doing so. Quite a few of them were completely dead, a few were old enough I had no way to even plug them into a recent computer (and I got rid of the old ones...). I run my stuff pretty hard, but about 1 in 6 of the hard drives I've owned in my life (~30) have died in under 5 years. Actually, make that less than 1 in 5....

The only problem with the

The only problem with the paper diary trick is that it'd be way too easy for some well-meaner to inadvertently pick it up and toss it in the "donate to Goodwill" box, thinking it's just a crappy old book! (Okay, so in part I'm still thinking along of my vein of "OMG, somebody's going to have to clean out my stuff, inc. my journals, when I die," but I suppose there's a slim possibility it could happen in life too.)

Granted, I don't know that there's anything in my journal to point to my identity, so a random reader who picked it up wouldn't know who I was, plus my life is boring enough that they probably wouldn't read for very long anyway, but still!

I hope the photocopiers got slammed

What they did was criminal, literally. You could have had a lawyer skin them.
Some thoughts on private journals:

If you are going to write on the computer, put the journal on a removable USB thumb drive. Do not leave the journal files on the computer. What ain't there cannot get hacked. I have no illusion of privacy and security. The data file is secure from hacking only if it is disconnected completely from the system.

I like the locked tin. That works for both the paper journal and the USB thumb. Have you considered something like a safety deposit box for the older ones ?

Non standard encryption ! I got interested in calligraphy from the Elf-script on the title pages of The Lord of the Rings (called Tengwar). I learned to write this elf-script and wrote stuff using it I wanted to keep private. I still do that sometimes with stuff like password hints. There is an example of this on the linked page.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson) ***

Have you considered

Have you considered something like a safety deposit box for the older ones ?

Hrm, I wonder about this for an "after I'm dead" option. Can you make up legal papers that say upon your death the bank has to destroy the contents of your safe-deposit box without giving them to someone else? Or would I just have to make someone I trust to destroy the journals without giving them to my family, my beneficiary on the box?

Writing on loose leaf.

Then filing the pages among archived class work or other documents that are yours alone, stored with knitting patterns, scrapbook paper or other kind of crafts.

You can use a color, a pattern or another kind of clue to remind you where your writings are.

You could also get a safe deposit box store your already written journals there and periodically go there to store your loose leaf or whatever mean of journaling you choose.

Y'know, privacy is one thing

Y'know, privacy is one thing I dunno about with my journals. I don't worry about anyone reading them now, but if I died tomorrow you can bet my mom would be reading every page (I dunno if my partner would). And not only do I want someone reading the stuff I wrote, but especially not after I'm dead and can't defend myself, plus someone who's already grieving doesn't need more stuff to grieve about (stuff I've written that might upset them; also don't need their final memory of me being what I wrote in my journal while pissed off at them, or when I was really depressed or pissed off about something else, etc.).

I actually once had my journals willed to a friend that I trusted would destroy them. But there's nothing to stop my mom or partner from reading them before they box them up to send to someone, so what's the point? At least with a computer, it's unlikely they'd go through my hard drive (and if it was password-protected, or if it was online and they didn't even know about it, it'd die with me for sure). But I just can't get away with needing the feel of a book in my hand and my own handwriting. :(

Anybody got a plan for what happens to their journals when they die? I suppose I could find a small cheap safe to lock them in and will the safe to someone trustworthy along with the key, but there's nothing to say my mom wouldn't just get somebody to bust it open (and I guess I wouldn't blame her, if she died and willed a mysterious safe to someone else and wouldn't let me open it or know what the contents were, I'd be curious and worried too).