Children of today may need to change their names upon reaching adulthood to clear their reputations, due to the lack of privacy on the Internet. That is what Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, recently said.
I believe the problem is worse than he makes out. With the amount of websites monopolizing our content and tracking us everywhere we go, we’re not immune even as adults. The only solution in my opinion, is to register multiple online personalities. Here are some examples to illustrate my point:
- Ever wondered what your Facebook profile looks like to someone outside your friend network? You’d think you could just log out and type in your Profile URL, right? Wrong. That only shows you what Facebook allows search engines to index. If you’re not logged into the Facebook world, you simply can’t see what other Facebook users can see. This is why you absolutely must sign up for a second Facebook account – so that you can verify that your primary account doesn’t expose too much sensitive information to strangers.
- What about when you need to e-mail a public mailing list to ask an embarrassing question about, say, that mysterious rash you’ve just come out with? Do you really want that coming up when your next recruiter Googles your name? Best you come up with a pseudonym for that question!
- Disqus runs the comments on nearly every blog and news site I frequent, and they happily show anyone who clicks on your name which other websites you’ve ever visited and every comment you’ve ever made. There is no way to turn off this gross violation of privacy. The only way to separate your public and private life here is to have multiple accounts.
- It can be beneficial to blog about lessons learned at a previous job – as long as there are no trade secrets or names imparted. However, if the identity of the blogger is public, it can create all sorts of problems because it’s pretty easy to guess who the people involved are. Writing under a pen name solves this problem.
One really has to start right at the beginning with a brand new alias and e-mail address. Hey, at least you get to choose your name this time!
Of course, with so many sites now being reliant on one-another – e.g. Facebook Connect to authenticate, which in turn uses an e-mail address to sign in – it’s best to keep the multiple personalities fenced off into completely separate environments, or you’ll never know whether you’re half-logged into both accounts at once with third party cookies, or about to somehow post on your other Facebook wall through an API.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find the easiest way to accomplish this is to use Chrome for my public identity and Firefox for my dark side.