How to maintain online privacy
October 8, 2011 8:35 PM   Subscribe

How to maintain online privacy and NOT be searchable as someone else's friend social networking friend?

I have my friends lists hidden on social networking sites like Google+ so that they aren't viewable on my profile page. In addition, my profile is set so that only friends can view my profile.

However, a recent web search of my name revealed that my name comes up in Google searches under OTHER friends' lists. Why does Google reveal friends lists??? It is odd. Is there any way to prevent this?

How can I keep my online info. private? I would prefer that zero social networking stuff shows up in Google searches.
posted by mintchip to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm unsure you should be able to do this without using an alias.

Argument : Envision an idealized private social network where everyone's accounts are stored in a federated encrypted bit locker and nobody accesses anybody wall or friend list without knowing the appropriate symmetric key. If your friend uses a trivial symmetric key, then anyone could detect your friendship.

Google+ obviously has the power to shield you from your friend's stupidity, but they don't really need to, given that even a correctly designed social network that prevents its owners from knowing your friendships cannot shield you from said stupidity.

Just bitch out your friend. Or dump your real name for an alias. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 9:08 PM on October 8, 2011

Delete your account. Whatever your privacy settings, if you don't trust Google+ to keep your name from being Google-able, now or in the future, (and withdrawing that trust seems pretty reasonable to me, given what you discovered), you can't keep this account.

And since Google's stated mission is to make every piece of information in the world accessible through Google, you shouldn't tell Google anything you aren't OK with Google knowing and possibly using.
posted by silby at 9:10 PM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Google+ has recently said that it's not a social network, it's an "identity service," so it's probably good to be aware of this if you have privacy concerns. Apparently the whole point of Google+ from Google's point of view is to ideally make all connections and activity explicitly searchable and linkable so that if someone searches your name on Google they'll be able to view your photos, see what you've bookmarked, what you've posted, what you've commented on, etc.

There are privacy settings, but if you understand that the actual purpose of Google+ is to create searchable identities for users, it will help you decide how and if to use it.
posted by taz at 12:15 AM on October 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

> How can I keep my online info. private? I would prefer that zero social networking stuff shows up in Google searches.

In addition to the whole friends lists thing, this would entail getting all of your friends to never mention you anywhere online ever. No matter what your privacy settings are on various sites, those settings apply only to you and what you post, not what others post.
posted by bjrn at 2:35 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Taz is right. Google+ and social media in general is about sharing stuff about yourself with the world.
posted by gjc at 5:00 AM on October 9, 2011

You could download a Tor browser.
But Tor is for total anonymity - and Tor can't be used to visit some of the biggest web-sites, because some of those sites do not allow anonymous visitors.
posted by Flood at 5:23 AM on October 9, 2011

Google+ and social media in general is about sharing stuff about yourself with large companies who want to advertise to you in a very targeted manner to get you to buy more and more stuff.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:43 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just bitch out your friend.

jeffburdges, that's a bizarre answer, given that no one was acting irresponsibly here.

You could download a Tor browser.

Flood, a Tor browser is meaningless in this context. No matter how the OP accesses their Google+ account, the same info will flow non-anonymously in friends' accounts afterwards.

An alias account is the only solution, I think.

For me, it would be easy, since I'm already known by nickname. Which brings me to a big complaint about Google+: when I first "encircle" a friend, there's no easy way for me to ask them beforehand, "Are you the John Doe that I know from school? Or a complete stranger?" In fact, AFAICT Facebook recently removed this feature from their Invite form, as well.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:07 AM on October 9, 2011

Bruce Schneier said it best: On social networking sites, you are not the customer. You are the product.

There's absolutely no way to preserve your privacy in this situation, and that's by design. These sites are run by people and corporations who do not believe in privacy, who do not even believe that privacy is a thing. If you believe that privacy is something you want, don't use these sites.

I live without a Google+ account, without a Facebook account, without even a MySpace or Orkut or LiveJournal or Friendster. I had a Twitter account for five minutes, to test a script, and then nuked that too.

I do have a phone, so people can call me. I have a few email addresses, so various groups of people can reach me. It's weird to me that this is considered "unplugged", but whatever it is, I like it a whole lot.
posted by Myself at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2011

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