If you've followed this blog at all in the last year, you've more than likely come to realize that online privacy is one topic for which I routinely drag out my personal soapbox.
I have rarely come down on the pro side or the con side of any particular service or platform. What any one person wants to do or say online is his or her own business as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of someone else. But so many people are going about their business (or playing) online without a clue as to how much they're leaving out there. I just want them to be aware -- to be able to make an informed decision about what they do and don't do online.
For instance, a friend I wrote about late last year was oblivious that Facebook and other social networking sites use targeted advertising. She was confused one day that she never saw an ad on her Facebook page that I had been complaining about. She had no idea that everyone who logs onto Facebook at a given time does not see the same ads on the page.
Then another friend stumbled upon her Spokeo listing and panicked just a bit before she went through the rather time-consuming process to have the listing removed. My colleague Don Tennant had fun with Spokeo when he found it, too.
But another thing many probably don't think about is how hard it is to erase your "digital footprint" once you are aware what's out there and you don't want it to be. In fact, according to a piece published Tuesday at SFGate, leaving the Internet completely - erasing your entire digital footprint - is impossible.
ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik says:
We have been working on this for several years, and it's not yet possible to get out 100 percent.
There are, however, steps that can be taken. Hire a company like ReputationDefender, which can remove personal information from 80 to 90 percent of online commercial databases. Opt out of having data brokers collect your information. Stop using the Internet altogether and then change jobs and move so the information out there about you is no longer accurate.
Or, simply remember that once you put it out there, it's probably out there - in one form or another - forever.