Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Anonymous Online

Having internet in our modern life has turned out to be a necessity. Thousands of computer user groups has been created and grew into huge virtual communities. Each internet user, at least once in their lifetime must have created a user account in one of the websites visited. Be it for browsing catalogues, creating a free web mail account, downloading or sharing files, participate in online auctions and thousands of other reasons that required us to register.

Whenever I came across the buttons labelled Sign Up or Register Now! I've always asked myself, should I key in my personal data here? Yes, I know now so many of the pages have already put up disclaimers saying that any particulars keyed into the forms will not be misused. Well, I'm Dayang... I always have doubts.

If you have this same feeling and not comfortable filling in the details, the good news is, you don't have to. It's quite a difficult thing to do, but trust me, you don't have to oblige to everything the webpage tells you. In other words, it's okay to remain anyonymous online.

In my case however, I can't remain 100% anonymous in the virtual world as my career revolves around it. There are certain times at certain webpages where I have to be the real me.

But if you are nothing like me, or not doing the stuffs I do, for example I have to download certain patches every six month from principal's website and must get daily update on latest operating system security threat, then by all means you can stay as 'ANON' for as long as you live!

How would you know that you'd rather be an 'ANON' or your true self online? My suggestion is to go to any of the search engines e.g google, yahoo or MSN, then type in your full name. See all the results returned and how do you feel about them? There's a high chance that you'd find some real information related to you there. If it scared you till you face turns blue, you should become an 'ANON'.

My bitter experience was I saw my whole personal detail including my IC number, place of birth, home town and home address returned by the search engine. It so happened that my uni has published students' data in one of the facultys' website in 1997. The main page now doesn't have a link to the pages anymore but the files are still in the webserver. Obviously the search engines managed to crawl and grab the contents even though the pages are inactive.

Imagine what happened to all the data we keyed-in in all those online registration forms. How do we know where they'd be stored? Who'll get their hands on them (both virtually and physically)? How sure are we that they're not being traded? What other systems are interfaced with that website we registered at that might be pumping those information out to be manipulated by other parties?

There were just too many questions I had in mind whenever I came across that Sign Up button that most of the times I just stopped at that page, and dropped the idea of downloading the song/movie/file/installer. Well, I'm Dayang, I get discouraged easily...

So, there goes the first installment. Coming up soon: How to become anonymous.

Author's Note: I'm Dayang... I write about IT stuff *Yawn*


Leilanie said...

So, I did a search on my full name on google; several things came up.

From this blog and the other blogs which I am linked to; and also those from my past employment, work and conferences which I've attended and presented on.

I'm OK with that, as that shows where I've been, what I've achieved and where I'm heading.

But then...... a rather uncomfortable stink, is when I can also "find" (but not to my surprise) my MBA details from the university I graduated from, and my PhD application from another unversity I applied to, are also online (and these are all from the universities' database - shouldn't they be doing something about this? else fire the vendor and the IT guys behind it)


DNAS said...

data security and confidentiality awareness in the country is still very poor. That's why some vendor can't make money in this country.

jade said...

i searched my name. found only one link which is truly mine. and that is for a petition that i received online. apparently the petition was a faux. *sigh*

DNAS said...

u sign petition? Ganasssss...

Anonymous said...

hi dnas,
this is a very useful article. thanks for the insight. i've lost track of how many websites i've signed up with, it's scary. i guess we're never truly anonymous these days, are we?