Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Online Privacy

I’ve been getting a little fanatical about my online privacy lately. I've been paranoid ever since the nonsense started with my ex--he would leave rambling messages about my new MySpace photo (the profile is private but anyone can see the main photo) or be angry over something I'd posted in a forum, asking why I wouldn't just call him and tell him certain things (um, because I don't tell him anything about my life anymore and the question I posted certainly had nothing to do with him).Clearly he was googling me. And even Peanut googled me before our first date, and knew certain things that I didn't necessarily tell him that day, like the fact that I'm a bit older than him. (And that was not exactly fair because I didn't even know his last name, so I couldn't return the google-fu...which I certainly would have).

So now, I google myself every once in a while, and recently while doing so I found a new social networking site (Spock.com, not linked on purpose) that cataloged data that was available on other social networking sites—but this is weird. The stuff they were showing is in a profile which has ALWAYS been private, and they’re still linking me to my ex (we’ve been apart well over a year now, and thanks but I don't want my name linked to him at all). I've been removed from their listings now but had to contact them directly instead of using their removal form, which didn't work. It's weird that a site I've never heard of could index things from a private profile and display them there for anyone to see--not cool.

I also realized that I am no longer even comfortable with my Amazon wish list being public. I had already made my book wish list private (first, I don’t really want people buying me books – I work in publishing, thanks—and second, there are books on that wishlist that other people don’t need to know I want to read, for whatever reason). But I had a general wish list of things for my apartment or yoga DVDs that was public, and I've now made that private. It’s a little irritating that Amazon doesn’t seem to have any settings where I could share it with a select list of people, or send a link with a password to someone so they could see it. I will look into that a little more.

Some important internet security tips:

Realize that ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING you post to the internet is immediately out of your control forever after. Between corporate terms of service that you need a law degree to understand and search engine indexing, you cannot do a take-back. Photos, videos, posts—pretty much anything can come back to haunt you.

Google yourself regularly. Google different iterations of your name, and all of your screen names, as well as other identifying info like email addresses and telephone numbers. Take steps to remove things that are inaccurate or unflattering or that you don’t want available, like Spock. Many sites have a link to remove your information or you can contact the webmaster directly.

There are some things (old publications I participated in that I’d rather not be associated with anymore, for example) where the only way to “hide” them is to have better things appear higher up in the search results. You can do this by making legitimate and professional sites with your real name, and using some of the more popular/legitimate social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc).

However, if you're using those sites, be careful. Learn their privacy settings and make good use of them. Here are a couple great guides for protecting your Facebook privacy: Facebook Privacy and Dumb Little Man's Make Sure Your Facebook Profile Doesn't Lose You a Job. I think it's important to be plugged in to the social networking sites that are available, and I've gotten back in touch with people who now live on the other side of the world, but you need to be smart about it. Maintain an image that you'd be proud of in front of your grandmother, your boss, and your best friend, and you can't go wrong.

Also, see my identity theft post for a word about passwords. Seriously, people--if your email password, your Facebook password, and your bank account password are all still the same,SHAME ON YOU!


  1. OMG - I just did and it went straight to my networth IQ page. I thought I had made my profile private. Well - you can bet it's private now.

    I have my badge on my blog but it just has the total amount not the nitty gritty details.

    Thanks so much for this post!

  2. Glad you found it before someone else did!


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