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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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  • by Animats (122034) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:52PM (#42865433) Homepage

    While, in the US (or even the EU), we're not likely to see a "right to be forgotten", we might have a "right not to have one's identity exploited for advertising purposes". You should be able to quit an ad-supported service and insist that none of your data every appear on a page with an ad. If it does, the advertiser has to pay you a publicity fee. California has a law like that for photos - if you use someone's photo in an ad without their permission, you owe them at least $500 - much more if they're famous.

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:53PM (#42865443)

    If 100% of everything anyone ever did and said were preserved for all of history, it would be the best thing that could happen for privacy.

    Sure everyone could find any information they wanted, but that information would be less exploitable.

    For example, a company you applied for a job to finds a picture of you getting wasted on New Years. Should they not hire you because you are a drunk? Well it turns out that they can also find drunk pictures of just about every applicant so you are no different.

    Every single "bad" thing about you will either turn out to be something that is not really that bad in light of the fact that almost everyone does it, or actually bad (in which case you might need to go to jail).

    Another example: Your girlfriend finds out you cheated on her using google. You are an asshole. It also turns out that 70% of the people she knows have cheated. It also turns out she cheated on you too. This sucks. Well yes, but was it worse than when we all successfully hid our cheating? At least now cheating doesn't seem as bad. In fact it may not even be considered cheating anymore since everyone knows about it immediately after it happens.

    The real reason for wanting privacy is to not be able to be singled out. If everyone is able to be singled out, then nobody is able to be singled out. When a regular polygon gets infinite sides, it becomes a circle with 0 sides.

  • by MonkeyBot (545313) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:53PM (#42865449)
    I was thinking about this earlier today while reading the article on Raytheon's Riot Program. I don't know if you can effectively remove yourself from the internet, but you might be able to muddy up your profiles with garbage to the point that the information that can be gleaned about you from the internet is of little or no value to a mass data harvester like Riot. I think this is the way to go in the future. You can't erase the data someone has already compiled about you, but you can feed the beast garbage until it vomits.
  • Re:change your name (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EvilSS (557649) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:59PM (#42865553)
    Or pick one so popular that it's impossible to pick you out of all of the other John Smiths on the net.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @06:00PM (#42865575)

    As a fellow AC you should know better. The question is wrong. Keep the signal to noise ratio high and you will never have a need to regret your internet diving past.

  • by magic maverick (2615475) on Monday February 11, 2013 @06:57PM (#42866315) Homepage Journal

    I can't say I do from 15 years ago, but I have done for the last 6 years at least. Every time I create a new account, I invariably record the details (including the fake DOB and mother's maiden name -- jokes on them, I'm a bastard) in a text file along with all the rest.

    I also provide various fake email addresses (mailinator ftw) and record them.

    Basically, I could prove that I (Dr. Janet J. Smithers) do in fact own three /. accounts, six Wikipedia accounts, various file sharing accounts, multiple Yahoo accounts, Google accounts, multiple forum accounts, etc. Even though I do not use the same pseudonym anywhere anymore (I provide a different one in every location). I also try and vary my writing style, here I'm literate. Over de i kant rite 2 gud. It makes it harder connect the dots I hope.

    I also don't have Flash or Java plugin installed any longer, which limits attack vectors there. I limit JavaScript to certain domains. I have installed RequestPolicy and other privacy preserving plugins. Though I still find it strange I keep getting ads for chew toys...

    The point of all that was, I can't remove myself from the Internet. E.g. to delete /. posts would require more effort than I feel like putting in. However, I can limit the damage by separating various parts of myself and making it harder to connect them. If I could delete forum posts from 2002 I would though.

  • by YodasEvilTwin (2014446) on Monday February 11, 2013 @07:06PM (#42866409) Homepage
    You seem to be saying that living in the US is the problem.
  • Re:FTFY (Score:4, Interesting)

    by penix1 (722987) on Monday February 11, 2013 @08:02PM (#42866859) Homepage

    Another fun thing - make some accounts with variations of your name, close but not exact, then post the passwords in forums and let random people take them where you want. Remember, you're not interested in reputation - you're interested in bad data.

    Yea, that is one way to quickly become a blonde, bald, hermaphrodite with serious mental illness bent on world domination. That should trigger the DHS watchlist developers scouring the net for their next target.

  • Re:It's the New You (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Monday February 11, 2013 @08:03PM (#42866867)
    Always figured if someone was actually interested enough in me to do a search they may as well find something of interest. I'm not ashamed of my opinions, including those that I've changed over the years, and I've tossed a couple of stories out there as well. I've never worried about prospective employers searching my online history either, since if they're the type who would find my opinions troubling then I probably wouldn't want to work for them anyway.
  • Re:It's the New You (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Monday February 11, 2013 @09:51PM (#42867571) Journal

    This is exactly true.

    I used to play a game and we did a lot of outside the game strategical collaboration. In doing this, we use Google Docs and everyone who edited some of the papers made gmail accounts under their game persona. Anyways, to cut to the chase, I recently logged into Google Drive which everything was migrated to for a copy of one of the docs. on the right hand side of the page was everyone who collaborated on them and I didn't recognize any of the name. They also had pics associated with the names. It didn't take long to figure out that Google associated them with a live person and put the image from their profile on them. I was also able to look at the Gmail addresses associated with them to find not only the character Gmail address but their main identity on Gmail. I then followed that identity and put a couple clues together from discussions in game and was able to find out an alarming amount of information about them. In one case, I was even able to use Google maps and their street view thing to get a street address on one of them from what she described, pics posted to her face book page, and posts on her friends pages.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:37PM (#42868123)

    I also don't have Flash or Java plugin installed any longer, which limits attack vectors there. I limit JavaScript to certain domains. I have installed RequestPolicy and other privacy preserving plugins. Though I still find it strange I keep getting ads for chew toys...

    It may sound paradoxical, but the fact that you don't have Flash or Java plugin installed and JavaScript limited (on presumably on non-iOS based browser) makes you easier to track from the web site perspective, since most folks do have these things. You may not realize how your setup makes you stick out like a sore thumb for advertisers, like google.

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