Originally published: 2007-09-16: SML Pro Blog: How to unGoogle Yourself. Currently being reworked into wiki format
Reasons for unGoogling
Some people confide to me that the reason they don’t want to be searchable is because they have been stalked before and wish to be untraceable. A few of the folks I talked to attribute it to the potential for identity theft, but after a few more rounds of questioning in typical SML fashion, it all boils down to their biggest fear that their social activites might harm their job search.
Silly rabbits. I don’t know what kind of employment you are seeking, but if it is a company that you plan to be spending some time with, for your the benefits of your own mental health, it had better be one who allows you to be who you are. If a company cannot accept that life celebrates diversity, then perhaps that company is not a good fit for you. As Steve Jobs once addressed an entire class of Standard graduates, your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life (You’ve got to find what you love / Steve Jobs). In other words, be who you are, and find that company who values you for who you are. I work for the company that I am at now precisely because it recognizes my multiple skills and encourages me to put my entire head into my work.
Some day, when I am ready to start my own company, I will want my employees to be diverse, varied and energetic. I will want them to be individuals with multiple skillsets who have the agility and versatility to take on any types of clients and industries. I will want them to get all adrenaline from their extreme activities to be able to work on their projects better.
If any task requires mono-dimensional 24-7 professional workaholics (SML Dictionary: boring, uncreative and uninspiring individuals), I think that I would prefer bots and spiders instead. Trust me, they are far more efficient and economical than you are.
If you don’t buy my job search advice and are still determined to create a one-dimension personality on the Web, such that you can fulfill your masochistic desire to be in a long-term relationship where your partner appreciates your helpfulness in doing the dishes but criticizes everything else which make you unique, I offer these advice:
How to unGoogle: Noise over signal
- The best way to for you to remove your unwanted data from appearing into the public mainstream is to create more data for Google to index.
- The best way to be most invisible to prowling eyes is to have the most visibility in the most public places.
- You see this in movies all the time: if you need to do any form of "exchanges," you do it out in the open.
Why? It’s all mathematics:
- The probability of someone finding something about you over 5 valid hits is very easy.
- The probability of someone finging something about you over 50,000 valid hits is fairly hard.
- Retrieving signals over noise (data which you cannot readily interpret) is much harder than retrieving signals over signals (data which you can comprehend readily).
How to unGoogle: SEO
- Fact: Google’s Page Rank algorithm has largely to do with network theory. It ranks pages based on how times a page is linked to it by other pages, factoring their relevance (AboutUs: Google.com)
- Fact: 91.63% of the users click on links on the first page of the result page (Leaked AOL data: the importance of top search engine rankings)
- In other words, if you can generate enough relevant noise onto your first SERP (Wikipedia: Search Engine Results Page), you are fairly safe from being stalked.
How do you do that? Here’s one way to do it:
- Create a fake persona for yourself with the same name with a quirky personality. For example: a 57yo-widow who enjoys knitting, playing with kittens, network-savvy, and reads Daily Candy every day to catchup on the latest fashion advice so she can make more friends at her local community center.
- Register this identity with all the social networking sites you can scoop up. Need a place to start? Go to Mashable’s oh-so-useful social network grid.
- Once you have registered, create profiles resembling your alter-ego and create relevant content and social-network with people that are relevant to your assumed identity.
- Get all your profiles on these networks to link to each other so that you create a web of the Web.
- Remember to social-network with people similar to your alter-ego so that you remain to be very relevant
- Post photographs of cats on your Flickr stream, and link back to your cat blog; post videos of your cats on YouTube and blog about it; furiously digg and bookmark all the cute cats that you like on del.icio.us
- In other words, use the knowledge you gained from your SEO (Wikipedia: Search Engine Optimization) research and optimise your alter-ego to be really popular. These should get your real identity way down the SERP. You should be fairly safe now.
How not to unGoogle: History removal
Removing history does not work. Public unsearchability creates a false sense of safety. Just because you are not searchable by the public domain does not equate unsearchability.
Put yourself in the shoe of Google: if you just spend a whole lot of resources to dig up all these information, are you really going to disposed them all that easily? Most likely not. If I were Google, I will be happy to remove your result from the public domain to keep peace with you.
Tada! Due to quesiontable actions committed by you to fulfill your very desire to remove data, I have just identified why I get into the search business at the first place: to mine important intelligence data that no one else has a copy of. Thanks to your help, I have just identified what you considered to be most damaging to your credibility. I’m sure that businesses will pay me tons of money just to get their hands onto my treasure chest.
Machine data vs Real intelligence
Google is not the only source of data available. The best data do not come from 1s and 0s mirrored across the universe. The best data (aka secrets) comes from human memory.
I used to work for Rumpus as an information designer when I was in college. For those who are unfamiliar with Rumpus, Rumpus is the oldest college tabloid in the United States. From what I remember, it takes approximately one day for us to make a few phone calls to get the list of tapped members of the tombs, including the list of very-soon-to-be infamous members of societies who were not fortunate to be recruited by those with a tomb. We publish them every year. (In case you are considering sending hate mails to me, I would like to remind you that I am not responsible for those undigging. I was the information designer. I was responsible for creating maps of showing all the numbers of the Blue Phones clearly and legibly over the campus for your daily prank indulgence.)
I also spent a long time in college being the photo editor for The Yale Herald, the weekly college paper with articles that people read and comic strips that are actually good. What I have learned from that experience, aside from the potential danger of caffeine overdose, is that when you are carrying an SLR and a Moleskine, people are more than willing to give you information. Try that yourself at your next Harry Potter launch party.
Once indexed, your data will be there forever. You cannot remove things. You can only add to it. If you wish to remove anything, just make it very difficult to search for. Your best policy, as such, is really very simple:
- As long as you don’t do anything that you think is damaging to yourself, there will never be anything there to damage you.
- Try to maintain the habit of being responsible for every action you make, every word you say, and every movement your body create.
- When you have nothing to hide, you will be fearless.
- When you are fearless, you will be happy.
- SML Data = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + Data
- SML Intelligence = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + Intelligence
- SML Journalism = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + Journalism
- SML LinkedIn = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + LinkedIn
- SML Philosophy = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + Philosophy
- SML SEM = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + SEM
- SML SEO = See-ming Lee 李思明 SML + SEO