I assume everyone googles their names, and the various forms of their names they use to identify themselves online. Well, at least, I do. And I just found my name on a web site I’d forgotten about, a place I registered with several years ago.
Now, I’m not all that interested in being associated with that site, but there’s no easy way to delete my account. Maybe it’s an obvious point, but it hit me today — on many sites, it’s actually not easy, or not possible, to remove your digital ID.
A quick search turns up: it’s easy to delete accounts on both google and yahoo, although for both, if you don’t cancel and delete things in the correct order, you can linger (even for some chargeable, premium services); on myspace, you can, but they don’t make it easy; for Facebook, apparently it’s not possible to delete your account.
In the blogosphere, it’s also not possible. The Daily Kos FAQ, for example, states that user accounts there “…are forever, or at least as long as DailyKos remains in existence.” This is because, unlike social networking sites, comments in blogs (or, more specifically, political community-based blogs) are primarily public speech, although public speech with a digital “memory.” It’s a kind of Habermasian public space, with a automatic, permanent record.
There are some obvious questions: How long should our identities linger in cyberspace? Who controls our identities, and who *should*? What does privacy even mean these days?
No obvious answers…