Privacy: Going anonymous on the Internet

I personally like the fact that “ephemerality and anonymity" are now the rage on the Internet. I've been preaching for years to monitor your digital footprint, let's hope that awareness goes mainstream. In the meantime, there's a new trend going on and a backlash against images of perfect lives...
According to Kim-Mai Cutler in TechCrunch.com, social networks like Facebook have been all about parading your individuality, but that’s beginning to feel a bit passé. A new app called Secret, which launched last week, allows you to “share thoughts with friends without revealing who you are.” The app’s founder compares its appeal to that of “a masquerade ball”—“you know who’s on the guest list, but you don’t know who is saying what.” 

The anonymity encourages users to share things that “are a little bit more vulnerable, insecure, emotional, sad, goofy, or angry than what you might see on Facebook or Instagram, where people are trying to groom images of picture-perfect lives.” 

We seem to have somehow come full circle: “It is kind of absurd that people would need a mobile app to be more vulnerable or self-aware with their friends.”
 
The “theme of illicitness” that runs through Secret is part of its current allure, said John Herrman in BuzzFeed.com. The app’s promotion of anonymity is a direct response to today’s dominant Internet culture. Since Facebook became the big player, “real identity” has been the Internet’s default setting; now people are getting tired of that, and “anonymity is the deviation.” 

The rise of apps like Secret, Whisper, and Snapchat is clearly an outgrowth of the growing resentment over the way Facebook owns and exploits our online identities. They’re meant to challenge “the notion that the Internet should record and host everything that’s posted to it into perpetuity.”

Just don’t believe these apps will make you truly anonymous, said Selena Larson in ReadWrite.com. “It’s more difficult than you’d think to completely erase yourself from the Internet.” There are steps you can take, however, to “remove yourself” from the incessant scrutiny of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. 

First, download all the data associated with your social networking accounts, including archives of your status updates or contacts, then track down the “Deactivate” or “Close” options. Facebook makes this trickier than other networks; the company “doesn’t want to lose your data,” so actually deleting your account requires you to fill out a form and tell Facebook why you’re leaving. 

If you have long-forgotten accounts, a browser extension called “Just Delete Me” can help jog your memory, providing a directory of account deletion links for more than 300 sites. But you should be aware that “parts of your digital life will be chiseled into eternity—and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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