People come and go but their Amazon reviews are here to stay

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Surprising facts about your online presence..

If you are not a public figure, the vast majority of info about you online is under your control. So it is a fairly simple matter to keep it clean.

But there are a few pitfalls you should be aware of…

  1. Amazon reviews travel far and wide and are indestructable. They get scraped by zillions of sites and even if you kill your original Amazon profile, the review you wrote in 2002 will still be available to the world in 2052.
  2. Your Facebook profile may be private, but your likes may not. Liking the post of a public page may be visible to the world. Ditto if you have been tagged in an album available to “Everyone”. So, dear friends, if you tag me in a public album I am untagging it in my ongoing effort to have a small footprint – sorry!
  3. Some online services create a public profile of you without you knowing… and don’t let you make it private. Many apps don’t let you delete your public profile short of deleting the service. Xmarks is one such site. Even if your Xmarks links are private, your Xmarks activity (writing reviews, rating sites) is not only publically available but can be followed by an RSS feed!* There is no off switch. Ditto with Jumo, Audioboo, Scribd and many others. I have left several services because of their failure to protect my online profile.
  4. Your full name is visible on your Google profile. Even if they say it isn’t, it is. Go ahead and try. I had edited my profile so that only my given name would be visible but when I went to the profile page as a visitor (ie I was not logged in) my full name was there along with every stupid thing I had shared in my RSS reader. Think employers will be impressed with my obsession with cute overload? Solution: kill Google public profile AND BUZZ along with it.
  5. Your emails to yahoogroups – along with the name in your return addy – are visible if the admin has made the archives available to the public. There is NO undoing that one. So either convince the group admin to limit archives available to members only or do not contribute to the group (or do so from an alias).

I was surprised by how many services failed to consider privacy when this has been so widely discussed online. So live and learn. Don’t assume that the app you use follows best practices. Find out before signing up.

If you have any other tips or warnings, please feel free to contribute below.

*Note: Xmarks fixed this on 25 May 2011 thanks in part to complaints from yours truly. Kudos to them for listening to their users!