Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What does the Internet know about you?

While I'm battling anonymous trolls on my blog, the BBC is reporting about the opposite problem: an interesting analysis of somebody who put too much information about herself on the internet. Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the prostitute that brought down Eliot Spitzer, had pages on sites like MySpace or, and once she got famous through her connection with the governor of New York, the press was able to get all sorts of information about her, including photos, and publish it. Now she and her lawyers are trying to put the genie back into the bottle with legal action, but that's too late.

Me, I'm afraid of offering too much private information of myself on the internet. There is no MySpace page about me, or Facebook, or anything. On this blog I'm not using my real name, and I'm keeping information about myself to a minimum. If I get caught in bed with the governor of New York tomorrow (which is admittedly unlikely), the press won't find photos of me on RateMyBody (I'd be afraid of the rating anyway) or the story of my life posted anywhere. The worst they could find would be this blog, leading to the obvious "he plays video games, he must be a mass murderer" conclusion. :)

But others, including my readers, aren't that careful. Half of the e-mails I get are from people using their real name, and a good number are using their company e-mail system to send it. The one that cracked me up most was the one to which the company mail system had automatically attached a request to comment on my satisfaction with the guy's mail to his manager, linking the manager's mail address (Don't worry, I didn't reply). If I know your real name, what info can I find about you on sites like MySpace or Facebook? I googled my real name and to my satisfaction there are other people who have the same name as I do, and they come up higher in Google. So if your name is relatively common, you might preserve some anonymity that way. But other than that your MySpace page is only anonymous as long as nobody looks for it.

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