Remember when the internet was like the wild west, you could do and say anything you wanted and no one could track you or stop you? It's not like that anymore and it's getting worse: seems every week there's another story of someone getting fired over a personal blog or twitter or facebook. Google has 282,000 results for "fired for blogging". So what can you do? How do you protect yourself? Read on to find out.
What NOT to do
I read an article recently on the popular blog lifehacker about using a pseudonym to better control your searchable online identity and the comments floored me. First comment was from infmom saying "I've been infmom so long, it feels like real to me"
so I decided to test that, just how much information could I find out about infmom? Quick google search found a twitter for infmo and revealed infmom is having problems with lifehacker recently, which means it's probably the right infmom
Twitter says her ("Queen of secondhand computers" so assuming female) name is "Marte" and has been online since 1983 so she's probably older. Her twitter gave me her website, infmom.net, which gave me her Amazon and LiveJournal. Her LiveJournal told me she's been exploring Griffith Park.
Googling Griffith Park that gave me LA, California. So infmom lives in LA. Her Amazon says Burbank and her birthday is November 30th
Another LiveJournal post indicates she doesn't like Republicans.
Back to infmom.net told me she has 3 tattoos and is a type 3 diabetic and has a nickel allergy. More reading revealed infomom is retired, older (retirement age), heavy and has a tattoo of seven stars.
So just by a simple post on a blog I've found that infmom is married, of retirement age (50+?), heavy, has 3 tattoos (one of seven stars), birthday, anniversary, hates republicans and lives in Burbank, California, all within a few minutes, and this is just the tip of the iceburg, I didn't even get into the 66 posts on huffingtonpost.com, ranging from her thoughts on gay marriage to the Iraq war. I'm sure with a bit more digging I could find a full name and, if I was willing to pay 123people.com, probably an address.
Alright so maybe it's not so bad in her case, but what if this was a 13 yr old who left so much information available online? Would you want your son or daughter's information available to any stranger?
True story: I was once looking for a wedding photographer and found a few on craigslist. I contacted the photographer and he seemed nice enough and the price was reasonable. Before finalizing the deal I decided to google his username and email: I found posts from 2005 where he was soliciting young girls for pornography.
I did not hire the guy.
What TO do
So what can you do to keep yourself safe from googling? Here's some tips
DON'T use the same username on every site. Switch it up often, the more the merrier. So what if you forget, let the browser remember them, or if the browser forgets click "forgot password" and wait a few seconds for the password to be emailed to you.
DON'T use your name or any similar characteristics to your other usernames.
|DO create a username that results in thousands of results when googled. Use something generic like "cowboysfan" or popular saying like "BPsucks" or even the incorporated the URL of the site you're posting on like "gizmodoreviews". Each of these resulted in thousands of google results, making it difficult for people to find your posts.
|DON'T use the same email for all the usernames
DO create multiple email addresses and have them all forward to another generic email that you never give out to anyone or use on any site. Gmail makes this easy, you can even reply as those other email addresses.
DO use something generic similar to the technique to decide your username, so google searches result in thousands of results
|DON'T post the same or similar comments on your personal blog and a popular article. Just read an article and want to comment on it? Don't comment on the article and then go write a blog restating what you just said, it won't take long before someone connects the dots.
||DO keep your personal comments separate from your blog comments. Either write your comments on the article itself or go to your blog and write about it but don't do both.
|DON'T use the same avatar everywhere
||DO use different avatars. There's thousands to pick from, when you see someone's avatar that you really like just save it to a avatar folder and use it on your next username.
Got any other tips? Let me know in the comments below.