Thursday, April 22, 2010


Everyone has done this at least a couple of times - type your name into Google and see what turns up. And hope that the results are about you. A couple of years back I was eager to have the "right me" show up. I'd built a small website on a free hosting service. I'd started using it as a blog too (the first post ever on this one refers to that) and I wanted this correct site to show if ever someone searched for details about me.

I tried to go all out... well sorta. I had the site url as my email signature, had it on Orkut (I wasn't using Facebook then), and I guess I tried putting it on a couple of places to attract the attention of search engines. My name is thankfully not too common. A search will give pretty much a lot of info about me. And most of it is correct. I guess I must thank Chaitali for making me aware of how search could be used for uncovering disturbing amounts of stuff. She took up a challenge from me and found some interesting obscure details about my flat-mates just using Google search. I had those details verified.... and flat-mates did creep out a bit.

Over time, I clamped down on the privacy settings on Facebook and Orkut. Orkut was pretty easy to deal with since I never used it for much. I barely uploaded enough details. But Facebook is turning into this giant mass of personal data. It's addictive and fun and that's what makes it so tempting to sorta divulge info onto it. Thank god someone out there started screaming about privacy issues and caught my attention.

The blog "Blown to Bits" carries a lot of posts and links about privacy issues. Facebook has always seemed to be a dicey deal when it comes to privacy. (Unfortunately, I can't find or add links here to make it easier to read, but the BTB blog is a good start to read up stuff related to this.) Using social apps on Facebook seemed okay in the beginning, but I realised that most of these apps get to access your personal info. Letting random people know your complete birthdate, place of birth, phone number, address are not the best ideas in the world. It's such an easy way of letting people steal your identity, especially since so many tech support services ask these questions over the phone or internet when you want to "change options", "get additional features", "report forgotten password" and so on.

Google has always seemed much better on this front, only because they make their privacy policy easily accessible and options easy to change. Facebook keeps changing it's policy and there is a small blurb informing people about it. It has been getting better lately but the first impressions have stuck around and I'm keeping my profile all locked up except to certain friends.

What prompted this post? A new option on FB that allows you to "like" any site and share that story on FB with your friends. The small print below says that your public profile info might be available to the sites. FB has also tied up with Microsoft Docs, Pandora and Yelp and so I'm guessing that if you log on to both using the same browser your online accounts might get linked. I don't have accounts on those and I'm not going to test this. 

I'm just gonna re-check & confirm if my public profile is pretty closed to strangers.

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