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Author Topic: My Digital Footprint (please help)  (Read 938 times)
NeonNights
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« on: October 07, 2023 @155.19 »

I have been on the internet for longer than I can really remember. Must be at least ten years. And I'm 15.
I got my first laptop in kindergarten. I used it to go on Khan Academy, where I learned how to code. What a nerd.
As I got older I found websites with interesting things and I made accounts on those websites to do those interesting things. I never thought about it too much.

I don't know how much information about me has been stored and sold over the years - but I want it to stop.
I want to reclaim my digital footprint, but I don't know where to start. My autism is the kind of thing that prevents me from taking on these big nebulous tasks, I need a concrete step-by-step plan. I need to know where to start, where to stop. How will I know if I've succeeded? How can I exist on the internet going forward in a way that is in line with this minimalist goal?

How do I fix this??

This is a bit esoteric. But yeah. Any help or advice is appreciated.
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ThunderPerfectWitchcraft
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2023 @419.88 »

Hi.

First, you should try to acknowledge that it won't be possible to analyze where you left traces behind and match them to you.
This is partly a good thing - the data is there, but probably no one can tell that it was your data.
On the other hand, you have no chance to delete it.

Then try to get the big data harvesters to delete your data. Here is an example for google:
https://www.cnet.com/news/privacy/theres-a-way-to-delete-the-frightening-amount-of-data-google-has-on-you/
you should vaguely know which big systems you used over your 10 years. Try to contact them. If you are a EU citizen, you can use the GDPR to do so, this makes things a bit easier. In your country similar laws might or might not exist. If you are a EU citizen, feel free to say so and I can help you formulating a default letter you can use.

Prevent further data to be mined. Say goodbye to the big networks, such as Facebook, X, Instagram, Google, etc. I see you use GMail? Change it. Check Prism https://prism-break.org and consider exchanging some of the software you use with the alternatives they recommend - OpenSource isn't a panacea, but it helps, and using Linux is a good idea if your game is digital self determination.

Your Browser takes a central role. Use Firefox. Deactivate the submission of data, and install the plugins uBLock Origin, NoScript, HTTPS everywhere and Privacy Badger. Set Startpage instead of google as your default search engine.

This won't totally prevent you from getting data mined, but it will reduce the amount drastically drastically.
Hope this helps.
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shevek
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2023 @768.18 »

There are several services that offer to delete accounts for you (like JustDelete.Me) or send out legal requests to have your data deleted if you hire them.
One of those services is Incogni. Disclaimer, I have never tried it - I actually didn't finish the signup process and later they sent a 20% off coupon to get me to finish it, so just in case anyone wants to save money do that - and of course this presents the issue of giving data to another entity. Privacytools.io did a review on them.

As for existing on the internet, there are more anonymous or protected ways to host websites, check out Njalla. It's a project that one of the Pirate Bay guys is involved in, and these guys definitely know how to keep stuff up and anonymous.

If you are into the topic itself and may be interested in reading about extreme approaches, I have read How To Disappear by Frank Ahearn and it was interesting - though usually not suitable as an action plan for anyone with a normal threat profile (not a wanted journalist, criminal, whistleblower etc.)

edit: weird typo

« Last Edit: October 07, 2023 @793.19 by shevek » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2023 @927.04 »

you only put out as much data as you exist, and as much as you use a machine. by that, i mean that data exists about you regardless of whether you're on the internet or not (you buy things and you pay tax which is registered online somewhere, you walk in a town so you're recorded by CCTV).

you can (somewhat) control how much you use a machine (you probably need a phone to get a bank account), and as is the (imho) most important rule in cybersecurity: "if you want privacy, don't be online". you can control what software you use, but even that doesn't guarantee a fixed-sized digital footprint. a lot of hardware, for instance, is proprietary - ergo you can't be certain that your Intel CPU doesn't have in-built instructions to connect to some nearby wifi and send data.

a lot of scambaiter YouTubers have taken to partnering with services like aura, which claim to be able to search the darkweb for your information and remove it, with the major caveat being that you need to provide this very centralized service your data to begin with. similarly, whenever you log into an old site with the intent of deleting it, you provide that site the data that you remember it, and that you want to delete your presence on it, as well as the less metaphysical concepts like your IP (ergo location; using a VPN doesn't help because you're just giving your data out to the VPN server!).

also: data is only a scary thing when it's viewed. digital archives are far more temporary than anything physically written, and if you can choose what you interact with in the first place, then you'll likely have less data collected about you. this extends everywhere, really. i programmed my own chat application with a web interface so i don't have to rely on third-party software, and i'm working on an internet transmission protocol, like HTTP, Gemini or Gopher.

essentially i'm saying that i'm of the belief that it's more worthwhile for me to pursue being online less, and lurking in familiar places like here on Melonland, than it is to go to the effort of reducing my existing footprint. you might be (and probably are!) different, but i still think the above is worth saying because i think constantly re-evaluating our threat models is a very good way to be safer than you were yesterday.
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2023 @152.05 »

i'm of the belief that it's more worthwhile for me to pursue being online less, and lurking in familiar places like here on Melonland, than it is to go to the effort of reducing my existing footprint.

I so agree with this!
(personal ramble not related to most of your post incoming ;v;)

I feel like I'm in the same boat as OP, as recently I saw a Twitter user get denied an entry level part time job for the memes they post on Twitter. (Lots of ironic posting about pretty anime boys and generally accepted Twitter tomfoolery.) Like, this guy didn't get a supermarket cashier role because of Bungo Stray Dogs memes. Which made me wonder what kind of stuff WAS I posting back in my glory days? I was SO HELLA cringe circa 2014-2020, since I was a stupid teen and didn't care a whole lot about my future. It just seemed so out of reach that I couldn't care.
Nowadays I wonder how much of my ancient horny Hetalia-posting is floating around in the web... But I've had to accept that I can't track down all those accounts, and that anyone who cares enough could just Wayback Machine it. It's kinda scary though, since my field of art is notorious for digging up the pasts of not just big figures, but also nobodies like myself. Would I be able to prove I'm not a simp for America from Hetalia these days? An innocuous example, but as someone who often forgets what they ate for breakfast, I can't remember all my Instagram posts from that era, and I really hope they get lost to the sands of time. I'm not certain what's all in my past, and I do NOT wish to find out ;; If I ever get a big name job, I'll just use a pseudonym. But I'm not even sure that's practical these days...

A lot like you I've just stopped using a lot of accounts, I barely leave the Google ecosystem, Neocities, and a couple web games. (And school stuff of course.) I'm glad that Safari implemented profiles to section off personal and work stuff! I can at least rest easy knowing my school can't see my personal stuff and that LinkedIn can't track me. I don't have much to hide, but I feel like I'm always on my toes these days! Too many horror stories!!!! ;_;

edit: Typos!
« Last Edit: October 19, 2023 @153.82 by Bingus_Baby » Logged


TheFrugalGamer
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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2023 @602.04 »

I totally get why folks would want to stay offline as a result of your story, @Bingus_Baby, but at the same time I'm more inclined to think what kind of job would reject someone for a cashier position because of Twitter memes?!?! I mean I hate to say "dodged a bullet" and all, because I know that doesn't do much for people who need the income, but I really fell like employers just need to get over this mindset. Who cares about meme posting these days!?!?!
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starbreaker
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2023 @641.49 »

I mean I hate to say "dodged a bullet" and all, because I know that doesn't do much for people who need the income, but I really fell like employers just need to get over this mindset. Who cares about meme posting these days!?!?!

It's one thing if you're posting objectionable shit on the job using company-owned equipment or claiming to represent your employer. But if you're posting on your own time using your own equipment, then what you say should be none of your employer's business, and it should be generally understood that most workers don't speak for their employers.

Also, any business that refuses employment based on what a worker does in their own time should be driven out of business.
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j
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2023 @557.96 »

I so agree with this!

thanks!

what kind of job would reject someone for a cashier position because of Twitter memes ... employers need to get over this mindset

what you say should be none of your employer's business ... any business that refuses employment based on what a worker does in their own time should be driven out of business

an autistic friend of mine applied for one of few retail positions in a pretty run-down area, where they mentioned being autistic to play to their strengths (good attention to detail etc.). the interviewer started going off on one about how their stepson was autistic and how that made some parts of life difficult for their stepson, which the interviewer then assumed was the default for anybody with autism - essentially they were assumptive about what being autistic actually entails; refusing to listen to my friend when they said they were speaking about how their autistic experience differed to that of the employer's stepson.

the point i'm making here is that employers are people with power. a lot of folks have transactional relationships like this, whether it be with their employers for money or with their landlords for shelter. similarly, employers (et al) are subject to the same biases and preconceptions that affect where their line of what's "okay" is drawn. a tweet from a queer person talking about how amazing pride was for them can affect their ability to find work (or worse), and whilst that /is/ dodging a bullet - circumstances for some folks can mean that it's difficult for them to find work in the future.

something /should/ be done about this, but it's not that simple - and the type of reformation that promises equality or equability often involves collateral damage. a safer way for vulnerable folks to live is to play by the system and fight smaller battles that don't potentially compromise their livelihoods. ergo, staying offline and writing in a journal instead of twitter is safer.
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TheFrugalGamer
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« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2023 @843.33 »

...
the point i'm making here is that employers are people with power. a lot of folks have transactional relationships like this, whether it be with their employers for money or with their landlords for shelter. similarly, employers (et al) are subject to the same biases and preconceptions that affect where their line of what's "okay" is drawn. a tweet from a queer person talking about how amazing pride was for them can affect their ability to find work (or worse), and whilst that /is/ dodging a bullet - circumstances for some folks can mean that it's difficult for them to find work in the future.
...

This is a good point, and I think I was trying to get at that, but was unable to articulate it quite as well as you have. I wish I could do something to change the fact that some people still have to hide, but I'm not quite sure what to do about that at the moment. Generally I recommend staying away from services that take your data away from you (i.e. anything where you're the product, which is why I like the small web movement!). But I'm not sure that we'll ever be able to scrub things for good.

I think it's also good to resist the push to make accounts everywhere for everything. Websites and services are incentivized to do this in order to collect data on you, but it's a lot easier to make sure your data gets deleted if you never let them collect it in the first place.
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Thorn
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2023 @425.53 »

All of the above tips are great, but I'm going to offer a slightly different take on it. If you produce little to no data online, that can also make you seem very suspicious in the eyes of those with prosecutorial mindsets, and it will look especially weird given your age group and the fact that you're openly technically proficient. However, data can only be used to track an individual if it can all be tied to the same person. Therefore, making multiple email accounts and social media accounts, with some being professionally oriented and some being more personal, can prevent the average employer from finding you online. If you really need the extra privacy from someone you could spring for a burner phone, but I wouldn't recommend that unless absolutely necessary because if people IRL find out about it they'll think you're involved in something illegal. But if you're concerned about a company tracking you, you can make a new free email (preferably one that doesn't require you to add a phone number), write down the password and info somewhere, and put all of the sketchy companies in one email while keeping your other stuff separate.
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m4cgyver
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2023 @577.85 »

If you really want to know how bad anyone and everyone can find something out about you, put in your email to Have I Been Pwnd, Its a site that contains a list of emails and corresponding data leaks thats (relatively/pay walled) on the dark web or the clear net.

Moving forward without big tech tracking you is always going to be a pain in the ass; theres tracking pixels, tracking cookies, browser fingerprinting, feds and government agencies in any and all tor relays or exit nodes, Google's web environment integrity, Third-Party sign-in options, IP Geo Locations, hell you can even fingerprint with how long resources take to load (assuming your not using a vpn). Its going to be a constant arms race to outpace whatever adds or trackers are on modern pages now.

Trust me, whatever you have said I have said, done, and raided far worse and I couldn't care less, in private or in public because I have the moral high ground of never hurting anyone. If your really are worried about your digital footprint (as long as it hurt anyone) no one really cares. Just ease out of those circles or go cold turkey.

For now just simply delete all accounts that you dont need, setup your "official" twitter account or other social medias and leave them to rot, download some libre browser that takes privacy on a compile time priority, de-google your phone (flash Lineage OS or some other ROM onto your phone), and finally try out the Linux subsystem for windows and once your comfortable with that try to learn to dual-boot with any linux distro of your choice.
Just have fun with it, once you do that it'll come more naturally.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2023 @580.53 by m4cgyver » Logged

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