Is it possible to remain invisible to the web?
Once upon a time, having an online profile was rather complex. The traces one could have left behind were some entries in the archives of a mailing list or a discussion group, an email address or (for those who dared) a page or website, coded by hand, on geocities - or an equivalent "free hosting" service. Appearing in search results still used to have a sort of celebrity flavor.
When things changed, some decided to write their names on a blog or a public profile, while others did not care. This decision, made every time an individual considers writing something on a web page, sets a sort of watershed moment.
I've always been astonished by the surprisingly large number of people who, for the sole reason that they are not actively maintaining neither a profile on networking sites nor a blog or site, assume that they are "transparent" to the web. I know it sounds like an exaggeration and I, in the first place, consider myself mostly an anonymous user: I read a lot, and write tons of emails, but rarely engage in an online discussion - the same frequency of my posts on this blog is well below one-per-week.
Yet, dozens of sites pop up when I enter my name in a search engine. Many of those sites are ones which I have never even visited, let alone defined an account or written anything.
The fact is, with so many archives, directories and generic documents being published in every field of human activity, it is highly likely that any given name provides at least a handful of relevant links. Then, those few results are sometimes multiplied and echoed by identity harvesters, spam sites, fake blogs and whatsoever. Lots of noise, mostly innocuous.
And, even if you are one of those who don't spend their name when leaving a trace on websites, how could you rule out the possibility of having been tagged in a photo published by someone else, or your past accomplishments in some sport appearing in the archives published by the club of which you were a member some twenty years ago?
This is to introduce the first metric in my newly created online awareness assessment: "Google-self-awareness". It's boolean, a yes-or-no:
do you know what does Google say about you?