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Deleting yourself rom the internet

August 2011

I’ve been going through the internet deleting myself.  I’m not sure quite how much I’ve achieved, but it’s made me feel better.

It all started when, prompted by the recent fuss about phone hacking and the like, I did a Google search for myself (curiosity, not vanity, I promise) and was a bit surprised at what I found; if you try it for yourself, you might be surprised, too. 

I didn’t find anything that I am ashamed of, but I did find a fair bit that I don’t regard as being in the public domain.  So, I have set about trying to reduce my cyber profile.  It’s a slow, and rather uncertain process, but I think I am getting somewhere.

We all need to remember that when we door publish  something online it  is likely to remain there, especially these days, and not likely to be deleted, ever.  For example, I bet when King John signed Magna Carta he did not expect us to be looking at his signature almost 800 years later, but here it is:

I don’t mind genuine public matters being visible.  For example, I hold a very lowly post in our local Parish Meeting, and it’s fair enough that should show up.  I had a letter published in the Telegraph; that’s fair game; I’ve posted a few comments on public forums – also a legitimate source. 

However, what did irritate me, in particular, was finding photos of me (with my name attached) that others had taken and uploaded to public sites without my knowledge, let alone my consent.  Sometimes comments were added.  Typically these were pictures taken at private events, but which have been published in cyberspace to the world. 

The main source of this sort of thing is the “Social Networking” websites that have been popping up all over the place, and which many of us have been using without giving much thought to the consequences.  These include the well-known ones – Facebook and Twitter, for example, Linkdin (which is work related) and  Flikr, which is mainly for photos,  as well as many hundreds on wannabe sites or highly specialised networks for various trades or professions.

If you use Facebook, for example, you may well be popping up all over it without knowing too much about it; if someone takes a picture of you at a party, they can post it on their section and “Tag” you (that is, label the picture with your name) and others can then find it just by searching within Facebook.  The same applies to many other sites.  You will, possibly, receive an email advising you that you have been “tagged” , but that’s only effective if Facebook has an up-to-date email address for you and you notice it amongst all the other dross that clogs up our inboxes these days.

I have spent quite some time ploughing through these sites deleting  references to me – you can’t delete the pictures, but it’s a start.

So here are Webster’s rules for online anonymity:


  • Have Facebook and Flikr (photo sharing) accounts, so that you can look around, but put all the privacy settings at the highest possible level so nobody can find your entry unless you specifically invite them.  I don’t like Facebook at all, and I am convinced that it will fall apart in due course, but there is no doubt that it is the biggest game in town at present.  Check if you have been tagged every so often, and un-tag yourself.
  • Do a search on and every so often for your own name and see what pops up, and act accordingly.  Go beyond page one of the search, as well.
  • Don’t sign up to any other social networking sites unless you are sure you want the exposure.
  • Don’t post comments on forums.  I hate anonymous opinions – they are valueless – so if you don’t want comeback, don’t do it at all.


Finally, do as you would be done by – if you do post a photo on the internet, check with the people in it first that they don’t mind.  It’s a bit of common courtesy, and will avoid all the fuss.