How Best to Track Yourself and Clean Your Digital Slate

An early spring clean-up, the digital way

We had an instance last week where a member googled herself and found a SIPA document on an unauthorized site. It was a good heads up for us to try to get the site to do the right thing and take it down. I was reminded of this as I just re-read a recent article in The Washington Post titled “Time to Clean Out Your Digital Closet” by Melissa Bell.

In that article, Bell advises that you track yourself. In the past, I’ve been a bit reluctant to do this on a regular basis, maybe not wanting to actually see where I might be showing up. But obviously, it’s a good thing to get in the habit of doing. “Set up Google Alerts ( on your name, nicknames or personal businesses,” Bell writes. “Google will e-mail you any time new information about you is put online. To see what’s out there now, check It’s a search engine that lets you search by name, address or e-mail. A search on it reminded me of a LiveJournal blog I hadn’t seen in years. I made a copy of my youthful exuberance and deleted it.”

So doing this can actually serve a couple purposes. 1) You’re finding places that, as I mentioned above, you may not know you’re on—and either it’s unauthorized or maybe it’s actually a good thing and you can boast a bit. 2) I wrote last week about guarding your online persona because employers are regularly googling employees and job applicants (in a recent study, 65% said they do). So as Bell writes, you may find something from seven years ago that you may not want up any more.

Another tip Bell offers is to “get organized. It’s time to shed the old social sites.” She points to places like MySpace and Picasa that have both been usurped by much of what Facebook does. It may not be the most fun, but deleting “your profiles from the sites you’ve stopped visiting” may ease your mind some. “Technology companies might still keep records on you, but you’ll leave fewer online traces for other firms,” Bell writes.

What prompted her online upkeep was Google’s tracking of her. She says that the new privacy policy will now track what she does on Gmail and “compare it to what I watch on YouTube — all to better direct ads to me.” (It thought she was a 70 year-old man in Atlanta so there’s obviously a ways to go to perfect this.) Privacy policies sound good but you’re really depending on the honesty of those who are holding your information. “There are things you can do to limit what information companies glean about you,” Bell writes.

“Secure your passwords” is another piece of advice Bell offers. She suggests the LastPass password manager, a “browser add-on that stores all your passwords in one secure spot.” (Wow, now I know what to get my mother for her birthday!) “LastPass will log on for you to every site you visit.” A security risk? Yes, but their business is security, Bell argues, so it might be your best bet. “Plus, it eliminates attempting 20 different spellings of your first pet’s name” or my mother’s maiden name. Amen.

Lastly, Bell advises you to stop the incoming spam, and here’s what she suggests. When an email comes in from a place you’re no longer interested in, put it in a special delete folder. And then when the next Knicks-Celtics game is on (Lin-sanity!), or a Downton Abbey marathon, a new The Voice or a couple CSI (name a city) episodes, start unsubscribing! You’ll sleep much better afterwards.


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    Connie W.

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