Digital Identity Graveyard – remembering to clean up your past

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The ghosts of Christmas past…Failed social network

This post is NOT about how to manage people’s online identities after they die, although this is surely a business add-on opportunity for funeral homes.  Rather, I am thinking of the many sites where you might once have signed up/in and which you have long since abandoned.  Between those sites which have closed down themselves, been renamed, bought out, evolved to paying models or which continue to survive without you, the risk is losing track of your presence.

Before writing this post, I did a check to see how many old identities might be out there for me. I concluded that I had a reasonably clean bill of health, even if I did find a few surprises deep within.  It is my belief that cleaning up your abandoned identities should be part of a healthy eReputation.

Keeping a clean reputation

I thought I’d share the two key components to avoid having too many skeletons in the intern-et (as opposed to in the clos-et).

  1. Make sure that you keep, whenever possible, the same username.  Aside from meaning that your presence is consistent, having a singular username will help you when you want to dig back into your digital past…  What do you need to do to find your old identities?
    Google: “your full name” username.  (You should use inverted commas for your full name).  First, check how many pages of results there are.  If there are over 10 pages, chances are that your “forgotten” identities are buried (although, according to your profile, you will need to be exhaustive).  Then, look through and review the first five pages, for example… Typically, the first results will be your profile on the more successful social networks.  But, beware, there is no easy shortcut for this work.
  2. Always keep a list of each and every network on which you have signed up.  Even if I think it will be a quick/temporary sign up, I will drop in the URL, username and an encoded password reminder into Evernote.

If/when you find some abandoned profiles, you should re-enter the site and figure out how to delete your membership.  It is not always self-evident! This type of maintenance must become part of one’s eReputation management.

What are  your thoughts about the digital identity graveyard?  Any other options or ideas to keep it clean?  Please do share!

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