Simplest way to preserve a little privacy online: Lie

If you're not committing fraud, you're not required to give your correct name to Google or anyone else

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They all require some extra work, some additional software running with your browser, some time spent changing the configuration of your browser so it automatically deletes all your tracking cookies every time you shut it down.

What can you do if you don't want to waste time on freeware or changing the setup of your browser in ways you may not understand?

You can lie.

Lie to Google. Lie to Yahoo and Bing and Facebook and Twitter and any other sites that not only want to track you but won't even do their most basic mob – showing you content – without taking down information you would indignantly refuse if you were asked by the corn-dog vendor at the carnival, clerk at the car-wash or zombie behind the counter at a convenience store that accepts only cash.

Just lie.

If you have to enter a name, enter a name that is not your own.

Every time a site pops up a window asking for your birthday, pick one that's not even in the same decade as yours (make sure you're still claiming to be over 21 so the site doesn't turn you away).

When a site asks you to open an account, use a differerent login name and address than you'd need to buy something. Tell Google you live in Seattle; tell Bing you live in San Jose. Tell Twitter you live on a different planet.

It won't save you from having all the searches you run or sites you visit tracked. It won't assign a different IP address to your browsing data to make you harder to find,

It won't erase any of your past history; it won't add any history that's less embarrassing.

What it will do is create a fictional, named persona to whom some of your searches and browsing can be attributed.

It will break up the global picture of all your activities online into smaller chunks so no single vendor has the whole picture of everything you do.

They don't have the right to demand that, anyway. They ask because they know you'll usually go along with it, not because you're obligated to tell them.

The only time you're obligated to tell the truth is when you're buying something and the credit-card has to be yours, or signing up for a service that depends on using your correct identity – at the DMV or your bank, for example.

Don't make all the names random. Make up a couple of fake personas and use them consistently so you don't waste time and get frustrated while filling out online forms. Just paste the answers in and get on with your business.

It's not a crime; it's not an ethical violation. It's not even particularly rude, considering how intimate, complete and unwanted a profile Google is building of you.

Protect yourself a little without hurting anyone; be someone else for a while.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters

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