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If you’ve ever used the Internet, you have an online identity. Maybe it’s slight: a Hotmail account here, a comment on a news story there. Or maybe you’ve been more prolific, leaving a trail of usernames, accounts, messages, and profiles across the digital landscape.

In any case, an active internet user owes it to himself to do a bit of self-Googling. What you’ll find will be both enlightening and humbling—even worrying.

Unease about your online identity shouldn’t be limited to how much information is publicly available. Online advertising is the engine that drives the Internet’s largest sites, including Google and Facebook, and it depends on your personal—and allegedly private—data for fuel. "The government, companies, and marketers all want us to share as much information as possible because that’s what’s good for them," says Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "and it’s time to think of what’s good for us."

While most Internet users seem fine with privacy tradeoffs, the lack of control will lead some to consider the nuclear option: total Internet evacuation. But taking yourself offline isn’t as simple as logging out—it requires a little bit of work. Here’s how.

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  1. Sydni : January 25, 2012 at 3:26 PM  

    If you disappear completely from internet, how can you get e-mail? How can you surf the web, use facebook, have a blog, etc? Sounds like an IDEA that simply isn't going to land on it's feet. I think it IS possible if you want to completely cange your identity and create new accounts at least wkly, which would be huge hassle and possibly make things more difficult than needed. Unless you are using internet for illegal purposes it makes no sence. You should figure out a way that individules can keep their privacy for things such as, ph#'s addresses, court records and other PRIVATE info of the like. It can't be so blk and white, so all or nothing. Great thought. Needs fine tuning. C.S

  2. Anonymous : January 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM  

    You can always use free email providers and don't register your true name. Use throw-away cell phones for sites that require phone number registrations. You can use proxies for web surfing. You can use Facebook with a pseudonym and a picture of your pet if you must. If they cancel your account, open another. You don't have to be committing crimes to desire privacy, that's fallacious thinking. What if you were a young woman and someone, maybe an abusive ex, was stalking you? You still want to be able to surf the web and contact family et cetera without giving away your life's details! I appreciate your comment, but I respectfully have to disagree with you on a few points.