Saturday 26 January 2013

ARE we safe? In this digitalized world are we free from stalking from unwanted intruders

ARE we safe?  In this digitalized world are we free from stalking from unwanted intruders

In this world of digitalisation where every thing is linked to a computer or a server right from your smart phone to you camera, is your identity and personal information safe?  Have you ever noticed that if you punch out your name in Google, it will give at least 10 to 20 leads to your existence in the world wide web.  It may be through a oblique comment you may have passed years ago or through your geo-tagged photo, or through you questions in a very obscure forum. 

Yes, you are not free from the digital foot print and you are not the only one.  There are thousands like you who may swear on bible to never have touched a computer or browsed net without revealing your identity.  But you have left your digital foot print somewhere. 

Just type in your name in the Google Search and you will find out how public your name is and everything from your email to your address to your very private phone number are available on the net.  Its sounds frightening, doesn’t it?  It is because in some forum, on some Facebook page, or in some very stupid sign-in page you may have divulged more than necessary information.  

It is this information that you divulged that has come to haunt you.  Now, if you are ok with it then it is not a problem, but if you are a very introvert kind of person who hates all the personal information about you that is freely available then what do you do?  Sometimes even a socially active person feels that he should just disappear from the scene, what are the alternatives that are available to you.

There are ways and means but it is difficult.  It is just need your time and tenacity.  You need to have a never say die spirit to take up this challenge.

Start with Google search, type in your name and find out all the websites that list your name.  Do check out if it is really you, for when I tried my name there were 26 Vijay Prabhu’s available on the net.  Now list all the websites on a piece of paper.  Remember, if you had remarked or commented on the forum, you have to again to the original source that is the forum itself.    Every forum page lists a contact us page on its index, try finding a number.  If you get a number talk to the administrator of the forum and request him/her to remove your comment/remark/question or whatever that you posted.  If you can’t a number, email them to send you the administrators phone number.  

IF even this doesn’t work out, there is another way, every site has to be registered in somebody’s name.  To find out who that somebody is you have to again take the help of Google.  Open Google search and type “whois www.name- of-the-site.com” in quotes.  It will list you the person who is registered owner of site.  There are a couple of sites who specialise in this kind of research like whois.net and whois.com, this may give you a more personalised report.

Next step would be to approach the forum, remember a forum is under no legal compulsion to remove your name and details unless you have a court order.  Therefore be diplomatic, patient and request them in your best voice to remove the article/comment or question.  Your charm may work and the forum may delete your details.  However wait for a few days before Google shows up any results about the deletion.  It usually takes a lot of time to update their results. 

IF you want is to be done quicker, approach Google through Google's URL Removal Tool, for which you need to have a active Google account.  This takes care of Google searches.  

nOW there are many more information gathering sites who particularly target information about people for revenue.  Two of them are Intelius and Spokeo.  You may search if your name appears in any of these sites.  There is a solution at hand for this type of problem.  You may approach Abine, this site has list of most of the data vendors and a easy how to opt out of them section.  Each opt out section may require different approach, some may require only a phone call, while others may require a email or fax. 

Your tenacity holds the key here.  If you let your forget about your mission than your name may pop up again in a few months.  So don’t give in easily.  This ought to take care of search engine results.

What about your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Flikr, Stumbleonupon and other social networks,  any amateur hunter of data is sure to look in these sites for information about you.  For them use Account Killer.  Remember no amount of settings in these social networking can give you privacy, even if the service providers claim so.

Some times you may hate to loose your social networking but you don’t want to divulge your personal information, fret not,  there is a way around for this too.  Open the accounts/setting tab and remove all the details that can be linked to you.  If the web page doesn’t accept blanks, fill in some mumbo jumbo information.  Make sure the settings are set to private and your real email id is not associated with the account.  You can create a random email id with any service provide giving false names.  Link this email id to your settings.  When the website send a email to confirm/verify your email, open the email, verify link and close down the email service.

This is all I can help you with.  Remember after going through so much trouble to delete your online self, don’t fall prey  to the lure of online persona again.  Next time wont be a easy as this.

Please post your comments/suggestions/requests for any information in the comment box below(it is anonymous).  Further privacy can be ensured by clicking the contact me here.

Vijay Prabhu

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