Footprints Online

I’ve been troubled and conflicted for a while about how our privacy is threatened and how by using so many apps and services online, I’m giving away what might be private information to 3rd parties to then use or re-sell. I wrote about this last May when I wrote about Post Privacy.

Tech optimists used to wax poetic about how the internet was going to make us a smarter, more erudite, more empathetic global community. But in 2018, it’s become clear that we’re in the middle of a communication breakdown, and that nobody has a good answer for how to properly engage with the things we once posted online, however dumb or horrible.¹

There has been a recent wave of articles about online privacy and several make very good points or point to tools that help you erase or reduce your online footprint.

At this particular moment in time, a lot of people seem to be interested in making that a reality — or at least in trying to completely cover up their tracks. Signal, a text and phone-call encryption app that comes with a recommendation from Edward Snowden, recorded a 400 percent jump in downloads after the election. And while landlords, colleges and potential employers have examined the social-media presence of applicants for years, there are signs that this kind of scrutiny is close to getting much more invasive

I’ve decided to take some of these steps myself and last week I deleted all my Twitter posts since the beginning of time. Over, 11,000 tweets gone. Using one of the online tools that does the deletion for me, I deleted all my past tweets. After completing this effort, with some gut wrenching I must confess, I came across the article, “Your Old Tweets Give Away More Location Data Than You Think” in Wired that reports on a study where it can be determined where you live by looking at your twitter history.

And I also took down my very first blog. I didn’t delete the blog, but I made it private. That hurt. I really loved what I had written there over many, many years.

I still have this blog (and here I’m writing away) and I have my prior professional blog about IT which I’ve still left up but I’m not posting there much anymore. I might take it down at some point too.

I can’t figure out what to do with Facebook. I’m tired of their security breakdowns, their misuse of data, and their insights about us. But it is the only way we connect with some of our friends and family so I don’t have a good plan there yet. I’ve almost stopped posting anything and I don’t check it much these day. I’ve deleted it from my phone.

Have you taken any steps like these? Any learnings?

Footnotes:

¹ Winkie, Luke. “The Depressing Truth About Deleting Your Online History.” Medium.com, Medium, 11 Jan. 2019, medium.com/s/thenewnew/the-depressing-truth-about-deleting-your-online-history-92f26d24f907.

² Ohlheiser, Abby. “Erasing Yourself from the Internet Is Nearly Impossible. But Here’s How You Can Try.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 Feb. 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/02/10/erasing-yourself-from-the-internet-is-nearly-impossible-but-heres-how-you-can-try/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.58de8e1326f4.

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