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Privacy The Internet Your Rights Online

Is It Possible To Erase Yourself From the Internet? 295

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-shadows dept.
Barence writes "Do you remember what you posted on that music forum in 2004? Or which services you tried for webmail before Gmail? We often forget online services, but they don't forget us. PC Pro has investigated whether it's possible to retrospectively wipe yourself from the internet. It discusses how difficult it is to get your data removed from Facebook, Google and other popular web services, as well as reputation management services that promise to bury unwanted internet content on your behalf."
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Is It Possible To Erase Yourself From the Internet?

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  • No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:34PM (#42865185)

    No.

  • by sinij (911942) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:42PM (#42865279) Journal
    It takes more than that. You also have to compartmentalize your real and assumed identities so your friends and acquaintances who do not value your privacy do not link them for you.

    I find facebook's "is this really X's real name" queries to your social contacts especially dangerous.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:53PM (#42866271)

    That doesn't work... at all... they don't care what your real name is. All they care about is being able to uniquely identify you, and target you with adds. Your full name is a horrible data point for that because there are probably dozens, if not thousands of other people with your same name. I have a rather unique name IRL and there are still at least 20 people I've found with the identical first and last.

    Instead they track you based on dozens of data points combined. Any of which can not match, but if they have enough data points they can still be sure it's you based on the rest of the data points that match.
    So lets say they have the following info on you:
    Email address
    IP address
    Operating system
    Browser
    Fonts installed
    Start page (where you launched their site from)

    This is a rather simple list. Most marketing software tracks much more than this.
    So they track when you login. In general, most of the above information is given over by default by your browser, besides the email address. The email address is the holy grail of data points because, even if you give them a bullshit email address (like you make up one on hotmail just for spam) you tend to use that same account on all sites. So every time you login they log all this data on you. Then their software collates all this data into: 100% of the time you logged in with all of the above data being the same with the exception of IP address. That seems to change between 2 IPs daily. Then, once a moth both those IPs change at random. A quick query shows that the first IP belongs to AT&T, and is clearly your home IP address. The second IP belongs to a company, and you access it between 8 and 3pm... so now they know where you work, and the hours you work.

    Generally they don't need all of this, as long as they have a verified email address. BUT... then you come to the point where you switch emails. Or you have multiple accounts to thwart your tracking efforts. BUT, they have all of these other data points. They can still confirm it's you to an error fact higher than the number of people in the united states. That's good enough for them, and they link the data between the 2 accounts and add your new email address to your list of email addresses in their database.

    But you say "AH WAIT! I didn't give my new email address to that site... I went over to this other one! They can't track me!" That's great, but it doesn't work. As things go now, the site you're at purchased a marketing package from a cloud service company. A company that tracks all of this data across thousands of sites. The marketing service likely even has peering agreements with other services.

    Long story short? No matter what you do... how you protect yourself... you can not evade this tracking. You could use TOR but that would just be another data point for them. The very fact that your IP changes every time you log in is identifying. You may think that none of this matters, they don't have any of your real life data. But the fact is, they don't care about that. They just want to sell you stuff... whomever you are. Oh, and by the way, the second you buy anything online, they have all that real life data in spades.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @07:00PM (#42866849)

    Google Groups search finds any post on Usenet matching the search criteria. Note that flaming or embarrassing posts are generally at the top of the search results.

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Informative)

    by foobsr (693224) on Monday February 11, 2013 @07:37PM (#42867095) Homepage Journal
    Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

    Random headline from Washington Post: "How High Should You Be on High-Dividend Stocks?"

    CC.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal

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