Digital litter

Over the past couple of months, I’ve attended two social media courses. “How to make the web work for you parts one and two”. Principally aimed at journalists the courses taught us how to exploit the internet and use it to find facts, figures, people and evidence. The idea being that journo’s would then be able to use the vast resources available to them at the touch of their keyboard, thus saving on the time it would “traditionally” take.

The first course demonstrated how social media is now part of main stream life and to ignore it would be very foolish – especially if you’re a journalist sniffing out a story.

The second day taught us how to obtain information about individuals and how to dig deeper into the web to glean information that people have left in their internet trails. The amount of information that’s out there on you and I is simply staggering; and if you know where to look then you’ll find it.

Our teacher for the second day is employed to undertake investigative work and provide evidence for TV and radio programmes and he knows his stuff. With his tuition we were all able to unearth various pieces of information about anyone we so chose (that could have been you) merely based on very basic web knowledge and a simple understanding of search engines such as Google, and exploiting what information we already had, to find out more.

This digital litter is what we all leave behind us when we surf around the net subscribing to all manner of websites, social networking sites (like this one), buying goods on-line and simply having a nosey around. You may not have realised it, but you have left footprints in the web snow. Well you can’t hover off the ground can you? So inevitably you’ll leave your mark on where you’ve been.

You’re probably aware that Facebook’s decision to open up all their accounts to the public, removes whatever privacy we once had. So in effect Facebook has now become an additional online yellow pages, unless you’ve instructed it to not share your details with people other than who you deem to be “safe”. I bet your privacy settings aren’t as secure as you think they are.

Were you aware that people within my organisation automatically (because of a corporate licence) have access to your name and address, plus what’s listed in the electoral roll or (which also gives access to 200million archived entries)? gives information about people not listed in telephone directories. Please note that these sites will usually charge a fee to access more detailed information; don’t pay it.

Oh and when I did a search on myself I was relieved to see that I wasn’t listed in the deceased list. Phew! But there was loads of stuff out there that I was kind vaguely aware of. But I didn’t find any secrets, but I shall keep on looking.

So I guess what I’m saying is. If you don’t want to be found, don’t use the internet. Oops too late – you’re reading this.