These are tough times for people who value their privacy and guard it diligently. It’s the Information Age, and it’s brought along its insane, intrusive cousin, the Social Media Age. Everyone’s online, and everyone’s information is up for grabs for the diligent and clever researcher.
The easier you share your information online, the easier it is for people to know too much about you
Do a Google search on your name. Even worse, go on Google Earth and find your house. If you’re lucky, you may even see your car in the driveway. Frightened yet? So how do you clamp down and remove personal information? Keep reading, and be informed.
Let’s Go After The King Of Search Engines First
Are you aware that you can notify Google and have unwanted content removed, and that you can ask them not to show outdated info, because even though you may have removed obsolete pages from your blog or site, they can still show up on search results.
And while Google is good about granting such requests, removing content from other sites is a trickier proposition. It’s difficult to control information that’s found its way to other sites.
Watch Yourself Around Social Media Sites
Do you have a Facebook profile? What about LinkedIn? How much do you share about yourself, and do you include things like pictures and videos? And speaking of videos, if you make them, do you put them on YouTube? The more visibility you have on social media sites, the easier it is to find you via a search.
Drop People-Finding Services
Information broker services are like the Internet version of the White Pages. There’s a lot of such services out there, and each one offers your contact information for the right price. Fortunately, you can write these services and request to be removed from their databases, although you’ll have to produce documentation to prove your identity. Think of it as the online version of having an unlisted phone number.
Call A Professional
If you have money to spend and you want solid results, consider engaging the services of a professional. There are services out there that will remove your personal information for you. These people are experienced, and will be able to do a thorough job not only of removing old information, but also keeping an eye on any new public information about you.
Don’t Share So Much
Data collectors and miners can only gather the information you make available. Be choosy about who you reveal personal information to, and how much you reveal. A classic example is when you fill out membership information when you join a site or sign up for e-mails or other such notifications. Some fields are mandatory, others are optional. If you want to keep a lower profile online, then don’t fill out the optional fields.
Even something as innocuous as a screen or member name can give people clues as to who you are. For instance, WidowFromBoston gives people two big clues about who you are, whereas ThunderbirdFour keeps people mystified (although you may end up contacted by people into retro tv shows featuring marionettes!). Screen names shouldn’t tell your life story.
Stay Smart, Stay Hidden
Every so often, do a Google search on your name and see what comes up. Jealously guard your information. Consider this: you wouldn’t stand on a busy street corner, shouting out facts about your life. The Internet is one big, busy virtual street corner. Keep shouting to a minimum.
John Terra has been freelance writing since 1985, and maintains a proud tradition of putting together puzzling user names.
Photo Credit: Photos.com