Protecting the privacy of others

I’ve gotten myself in trouble a couple of times by not respecting people’s privacy online. On social media and even in emails it’s easy to make mistakes we later deeply regret.

Have you considered how you need to protect the privacy of others in your prayer letters?

Imagine everyone you write about is going to read your prayer letter. Would they be okay with what you write about them?

What should we do? 

  • Obtain consent. It’s best to ask before revealing someone’s identity or including their photo in your prayer letter. The same thing applies if you take their photo and intend to put it on Facebook or your website.*
  • Alter identifying details. Change names, places, or other characteristics when you are writing. I do this all the time on my blog, so that my friends aren’t worried about talking with me about private matters.
  • Ask. Is it necessary? How important is it to include this level of detail in your prayer letter? You can be vague about someone’s identity and still make your point.
  • Apply the “if it happened to me” test. Imagine a missionary from a different religion wrote about you or included a photo of you in one of their publications. How would you feel?

Writers in our passport countries are concerned about litigation, but I think a more important concern for us in Japan is to show love to others. Paul tells us to “be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10 NIV). Let’s honour others by respecting their privacy.

* In Japan people have been prosecuted for publishing photos of people taken in public, so it’s wise to take care.


Wendy Marshall is the managing editor of Japan Harvest. She’s learnt most of what she knows about writing from her international critique group, Truth Talk. She’s Australian and works with OMF International.

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