Sober Thoughts on Online Identity

Marco Arment published a blog post yesterday, Own your identity, that’s particularly prescient as Google claws after more of our online identities with its new Plus social platform. The full piece is worth a read, but here are a few choice morsels:

If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.

Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.

He links to another article he wrote earlier this year, Let us pay for this service so it won’t go down, which is also highly topical. Again, a couple of relevant passages:

For something as important as email, I’ve never trusted everything to a proprietary provider. My email address has never ended in someone else’s domain name…

You must own any data that’s irreplaceable to you.

I agree wholeheartedly with Marco. You can’t trust advertising companies disguised as social networks (i.e. Facebook, Google) with your most important assets, like your photos, email, and documents. They’re reselling it all behind your back. You signed a legal agreement to let them do this when you opened an account with them.

Buy your own domain name (I use webnames.ca for this). Set up and pay for your own email account with an independent provider (I use 01.com for this). Set up your own blog with an independent host (admittedly, I don’t do this, this blog is hosted with wordpress.com; but I recently read their terms of service and have started the process to move to a new host where I don’t give away any rights for the content I post).

It is often argued that First Nations people gave away North America to European explorers for mere baubles and beads. Similarly, internet users are giving themselves away these days in exchange for access to social networks. We need to wise up.