Tuesday 4 May 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 9 - Your Internet Footprint

What is your Internet Footprint? Well, basically, it's all the information about yourself that you put online. I really liked this quote from our coursework this week:

The most important point to remember ... is that you cannot assume that anything you 'send via' or 'post to' the Internet will remain private. You should consider all communication over the Internet as 'potentially' public.

I've put a lot of thought into my online footprint over the years, all due to one event that happened in 1996. I was chatting on IRC with a bunch of people I knew about being anonymous on the Internet and this uber-geeky 16yo kid bet me that he could provide my full name, address and home phone number within 10 minutes. I'd very carefully setup my IRC client without any reference to my surname, the only location I ever listed was "Melbourne", and he was in Baltimore so I figured it was an easy win. Imagine my surprise when he came back with that exact information - in 6 minutes! It turned out that my ISP had client details accessible online, so he did some funky Linux stuff which started with querying my ISP and ended with whitepages.com.au. Needless to say, the ISP was contacted (they were just slightly freaked out and took the whole thing offline immediately!) and the next day I arranged an unlisted phone number and got my details removed from the White Pages website. And that's when my Online Paranoia began. :>

As I may have mentioned previously, I held off on joining Facebook early on because I wasn't comfortable with the way the security settings worked. I've had a personal web page in one form or another from 1995 until about 2005, with links, information and photos about my travels, the arrival of my daughter, etc., but it was completely controlled by me and I was really careful about only putting things on there that I was happy for others to know about. Myspace and Facebook unnerved me, firstly because they required a surname and I'd never provided that online, but also because other people could add things to my page.

Today, I'm fairly happy with my Internet Footprint. I use Facebook for personal stuff, and I think I've got it as secure as I can make it. I use LinkedIn for professional connections, and I only put information on there that I'd be happy for potential employers to see. Recently I engaged in a Facebook Friend Cull, which was liberating for me, albeit potentially offensive to some, but at least now I'm happy with who is seeing the public minutiae of my life! Even within my so-called "private" Facebook profile, I deliberately do not include information such as my date of birth, suburb, home phone number or even display my email address anywhere (although this is more about spam prevention than anything else). I also do not include any photos that are potentially embarrassing to myself, my children, friends or family. So I like to think that I've got it vaguely under control!


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