February 28, 2008 |
Odds are if you are reading this blog, you are already using at least one, and probably many more, Web 2.0 apps. But I've seen several things over the past week that make me question how well people can stay "off the grid," maintaining even a partial online anonymity.
I've stated before that I'm a fairly private person. Until I started writing for blogs professionally, I kept my identity online behind a handle. When registering for sites that I test for Profy, I still use a handle, just to reduce the number of instances of my name in a Google search. I try to keep as much of my family life as private as I can, although my husband has had a public presence for as long as I can remember. But I had an interesting experience with family members who felt that my doing our family's genealogy using Geni was an invasion of privacy. Now, Geni has an invitation-only plus log-in set-up for privacy, as well as privacy settings that can be set up by individual account in which you can limit whatever information is on the site to immediate family members only. I was frustrated, but realized that most of my family members don't spend the same amount of time interacting with online applications as I do, and don't want to have information online anywhere, regardless of the security set-up. Of course, a cursory Google search verified what I believe is true for most of us; without diligent work from the first moment you log onto the Internet, there is a trail of information left behind.
From web sites you may have created that are saved on the Wayback Machine to person information you may have entered on forums to registry information entered on shopping sites to people, places, and dates in photographs posted to online sets, there are traces nearly everywhere
A commenter on another of my articles this week maintained that Google knew nothing about him. Is there really anyone online today about whom Google has no information? If you've used Google for web searches, used any of their products, emailed anyone using their products, used any of the products that Google has acquired, can you really be completely off their grid? If you've done ANYTHING online using your own name, you'll turn up in a Google search.
There are some things I would never enter into a Web 2.0 service, but trying to stay off the grid at this point for anyone is futile. What information do you still determine is too sensitive to put out there, no matter how good the security?