Digital Dirt

April 1, 2009

Google Maps “Street View” Catches People in the Act

Filed under: Random but Interesting — Tags: , , , , , — Danny Petre @ 8:06 am

I should just call this the “Google Blog.”  Google has a huge impact on our digital footprint it seems. 

Two example of how Google Maps “Street View” is causing embarrassing digital footprint moments.

1) Apparently (I say apparently because I found this tidbit on Gawker which found it in the Sun).  So apparently a women was on Google Street View checking out a friends house (noisy bitch) and the image showed her husband’s Range Rover parked outside.  He was allegedlycheating on her.  They are now getting divorced. 

2) A man passed out in the street drunk.  Now that that’s just plan funny.  I bet there are a few of me from my undergrad days.

So the question remains: who takes these freakin’ pictures anyway?  I guess I could Google that question, but I thought I’d throw it out the my audience at large (there are a few of you).


March 21, 2009

Drunk Emailing, a Thing of the Past

Alcohol has a major impact on our digital footprint.  Well, for me at least.  How many times have you sent an email after a late night on the town only to regret it once you wake up?  Problem solved.  All thanks to, who else, our friends at Google.  If you have a gmail account you can set this up from Google Labs.

Here’s the deal: you set up “Mail Googles” to for specific times when you are most likely trashed.  Say, 10pm Friday night to 5am Saturday morning (or if you have a bit more of a problem you can keep it set up 24/7).  


When you go to send an email during that time frame gmail will prompt you to answer five ‘simple’ math problems in under 60 seconds.  If you can’t do the math, you can’t send your email.  It’s like a breathalyzer for email.


So that takes care of email, but what about all of the other Dirt that is alcoholically induced, like text messaging or the infamous drunk dial?  Some cell phones abroad have built in precautions. LG released a phone in Korea that features a breathalyzer. Virgin Mobile users in Austrailia can use a feature that will allow them to block certain numbers at late hours of the night.

Now we can finally drink without fear!

March 18, 2009

The Google Mistrial—A New Check and Balance

Filed under: Digital Footprint Trends — Tags: , , , , , — Danny Petre @ 8:21 am


Obama’s wish is coming true: transparency in government is here. That is, transparency in the courtroom. As reported on the front page of the New York Times today jurors are using web technology on cell phones (and some using the internet at home) to do outside research on the trial they are sitting in on. Often, the information that jurors find would have been dismissed by the judge for some reason or another.

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges. –

So the question is: in the era of consumerism, should digital information (digital footprints if you will) be as a source of information for jurors to form their opinion? Who’s to say, besides the judge of course, that information found on Wikipedia isn’t a ligament way to inform arguments on all sides of a trial? We have allowed video cameras in the courtroom many times before (think OJ Simpson saga) why can’t jurors post Twitter updates to inform their “followers” of the courtroom happenings?

Granted I’m not a legal expert but it seems to me that today we are continuing to see a shift from government and business control of information (e.g. speaking to the public) to an age of consumerism (e.g. the publics willing consumption of information). Government needs to begin to understand he power that various technologies give the public. President Obama did with his campaign and continues to do so in office. (That was the first time I wrote “President Obama” and it felt really good!) Brands that realize that they are not “brand managers” but consumers are will be better off in the future.

Our illustrious professor, Jim Eiche, reminds us that brands are “a reputation.” Today that reputation lives online as we read consumer reviews, search for information, and seek the opinions of our friends. To me, this is the true democratization of information and it is essential to our lives… even if we are jurors.

March 17, 2009

For All You Job Seekers Out There… The Millions of You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Danny Petre @ 8:45 pm

Below is some great advice for those of you looking for a job now or in the future.  David Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, a tech industry recruiter was kind enough to share his expert advice on the subject of job hunting and the affect of one’s digital footprint.  Plus, some other interesting tidbits.


–          What trends do you see with the emergence of digital footprints?

The reality is people are finding more and more information about other people on the Web. Individuals need to be aware of their online presence and understand that what they post online publicly is out there for all to see, indefinitely – whether it’s a potential employer, fellow coworker, client or prospective business partner. Virtually everyone leaves some sort of ‘digital footprint’ these days, whether they intentionally set out to create one or not. Younger Gen Yers, especially, should keep in mind that what they post now could affect them later once they enter the job market. For those currently in the job market, it’s critical to learn how to manage electronic information about yourself, and ensure that it presents a favorable, professional image of you. Having a positive online presence is especially important today since hiring managers are often searching the Web to find out more about job applicants. Employers aren’t just looking for red flags – often, they are seeking evidence that someone is actively involved in the profession, perhaps through participation in trade groups or industry blogs. They also may be looking for inconsistencies with representations made on applicants’ resumes.

–          How can job seekers begin to control theirs? If at all.

While you can’t always control what others say about you online, you can post prudently, including comments on personal blogs or in open forums, as well as photos. In addition, you can take steps to ensure your online image is as polished and professional as possible. The first step is finding out what information about you is already online by performing a search using popular search engines. If you discover an item that you wouldn’t want hiring managers to see, ask that the person who posted the information or website administrator to remove it. Similarly, untag any inappropriate photos of yourself. If you belong to social networking sites or have a personal blog, it’s a good idea to adjust your privacy settings so you control who has access to the content. Also, set alerts to Google or other tracking services, like Technorati or BlogPulse, under your name so you can receive an e-mail notification every time something new is said about you online.

–     Can you really just ask websites to remove information that you don’t agree with (as you outline in your managing digital imprint tips)?

If you find something online about yourself that is untrue or that you wouldn’t want hiring managers to see, you should definitely contact the person who published the information or website administrator and kindly ask that it be taken down. Most sites have policies that deal with such requests; and while your request might not always be honored, it doesn’t hurt to try. That said, it’s important to be prepared to discuss any false or unflattering information about you that cannot be removed, and spin the situation in a positive light. For example, if a hiring manager asks about a wild photo from your college days, steer the conversation in a more positive direction by pointing out how your outgoing personality will help you thrive in the role. Most employers will be understanding if you are honest about the incident and can see you are qualified for the position.

–     How are recruiters and HR professional using the digital space to research candidates?  Do you have any interesting example of candidates that have gotten jobs or have lost a job       specifically because of their digital footprint?

Hiring managers may be searching the digital space, including professional and social networking sites and blogs, looking for clues to a candidate’s character, personality or work ethic. While there may be situations where they have uncovered information, either positive or negative, we find it more productive to interview job candidates in person and speak directly to some of their references.

–          Does Gen Y have a different mentality when if comes to digital footprints than Gen X and earlier generations?  Content generators vs. spectators…

Generation Y has certainly been called more tech-savvy than previous generations because of the proliferation of technology they have been exposed to early on. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are any better at managing their digital footprint than members of Gen X or earlier generations. They may be more familiar with new tools and protocols related to the Web, but they need to be just as vigilant about what they are saying and posting online as professionals who are less accustomed to these activities.

–          Do you foresee government protection and privacy legislation impacting the transfer of digital information?  Related to background checks for employment, as well as for banking, search, social networking, etc.  Like there is for analog information (US Mail)

 We can’t predict what legislation may develop in the future, so it’s always best to be selective and protective with the information you post electronically.

March 11, 2009

Google, How We Love Ye

Google is doing it.  They are really doing it!  They are using consumer information to target advertising.  Behavioral targeting (kinda) is here!  Finally.  Yippee. 

The good news is that they are not screwing it up like when they bought DoubleClick and had the privacy monkeys on their back.   As reported in today’s New York Times Google will be the first big company to behaviorally target consumers based  online usage information.  The interesting part of Google’s dip into this pond is that they are offing users the ability to view the information that is in their profile.  Users also have the opportunity to opt-out (if they can figure out how). 

Google will use a cookie, a small piece of text that resides inside a Web browser, to track users as they visit one of the hundreds of thousands of sites that show ads through its AdSense program. Google will assign those users to categories based on the content of the pages they visit. For example, a user may be pegged as a potential car buyer, sports enthusiast or expectant mother.  (NYTs)

So, Google isn’t targeting “Danny the 27 year old, Ivy League grad student, that works on Madison Avenue, lives on the UWS, loves pizza, classic American literature, and skiing.”   They see Danny as “a user that went to, so he likes sports and skiing;, so he lives in NYC; works in communications (maybe) because he went to; and is an animal lover because because he went to  (Check that site out, it’s da sh*t.)

They are just categorizing users, not necessarily targeting them.  Or are they targeting categories of users by behavior? So it’s “behavioral categorizing.”  Or categorical targeting?  I’m not sure really…

But I am sure this is a good thing for consumers.  Get this: I’m watching Jeopardy (which I do every night) and an ad for some drug about fibromialsia comes on screen.  That sucks.  I don’t care about that.  I don’t even know what that is.  The ad I would want to see pop up is an ad from Delta telling me that I can get to Lake Tahoe for $199!  That’s what I want!

Think of a world where the advertising we encounter online (and someday elsewhere) is actually relevant to me.  Maybe I will want to view it instead of hitting fast-forward on my DVR.  Maybe the 30 second TV commercial wouldn’t be so bad.  We would all be like my non-jaded 4 year old niece that watches every commercial on Nickelodeon because they are actually relevant to her.

Our digital footprint might acutally save advertising by making advertising relevant… right?

March 10, 2009


The logical followup to my post yesterday has to do with “sexting.”  This is when someone texts a nude photo of themself to others.  Funny right?

It is one of the dumbest uses of digital technology that I can thing of, and it can have tragic non-digital concequences.

For eample: a teen girl “sexted” a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend.  They broke up.  And he spead the photo around school.  The girl then was harrassed by schoolmates and ended up hanging herself in her bedroom closet.  This sad story highlights the importance of being choicefull with your digital activity.

There are a few people at fault here: the girl who took and sent the photo, the boyfriend who texted it around, the classmates that harrassed the girl, and of course the school officals, police, and parents that did little to identify the potential harm it all caused.

March 9, 2009

Really Dirty–Online Porn

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Danny Petre @ 6:41 pm


The question I’d like to answer in this post: do we have an “digital porn footprint.”  It’s a question that concerns many Americans.  Not me of course.  The interesting thing about digital footprints is that the Dirt left behind is a a mix of lots of different conditions porn site being one of them (see my personal list of Dirt causing activity–you’ll note that visiting porn site is NOT on there).  

So should 16 year old boys everywhere be concerned?  Of for that matter should the state of Utah?  As reported by the Consumerist, and thanks to our friends at Edelman (I bet Glynis spearheaded this project), we now know what we all thought, that the fine, ubber religious Mormons of Utah are the biggest smut watchers.  Or at least the state that has the highest online porn subscribership (5.47 people out of 1000).  That doesn’t seem too high to me, but still makes for a funny data point.

Utah #1






So, should we be worried?  I think not.  Unless after your online smut swigging, your online porn peeping, or your online nudie noodling, you don’t delete your cookies, think you’re safe.  BUT if you are actually PAYING for online pornography (which I don’t know why you would) I think you are leaving a digital footprint that could, one day, get you caught in digital quicksand.  Naughty, naughty…

March 4, 2009

Big Brother or Little Sister?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with an account manager at a major internet search company and ask him a few questions regarding digital footprints and how search providers are using the information they collect.  For confidentiality reasons I am not able to provide my contact’s name or employer.


Overall how can people control their digital footprint in search and other online locations like social networking sites?


While public figures may have a harder time controlling the information on them, average internet users of average public standing can and should use their privacy settings to reduce access to their active digital footprint (information that the user actively disseminates).  


Isn’t “big search” like Big Brother, tracking our every move?


No.  Like all website cookies enable us to tracking site visits and recent online behavior, but we cannot, and do not, identify the actual individual and we do not release any information.


Sites like MySpace are able to track age, gender and geographic location, but that is the extent of our targeting capabilities.  

What about behavioral targeting.  When I open an email, why do I get ads based on the content of my email?


We aren’t able to behavioral target–yet.  When you open an email, email providers use “bots” to scan the content of the message to identify key phrases and call up ads that might  be relevant to you.  This information is not tied to the user and is not shared with outside the organization.


But you are still collecting information on “me,” right?


To an extent.  We can only look at information at an aggregate level.  Meaning, we compile your information with that of other users.  It’s not just search companies that do this.  Anyone that uses analytical tools to monitor the activity on their website is aggregating information to understand when and where visitors are sourced from, and so on.  


How is my IP addressed used to track me?


IP address are only useful for geographical targeting.  They do not connect the search company or website to the users name, age, or gender.


I have been trying to better understand the generational differences relating the attitudes toward digital footprints.  Do Gen Y and Gen X behave differently?

All the data suggests that Gen X and Gen Y are basically on par with their online activity.  Specially the data collected on users of [one of our major sites] shows very little variance between the two generations.  It basically mirrors US population.  The difference comes when you when you start looking at those older than Gen X; the 45+ crowd.  


Do you think the government will ever pass legislative privacy protection for internet users, like they have with analog communications?

Identify theft has become a big issue in the recent decade.  I do think the government will need to pass blanket legislation, like Sarbaines-Oxley (SOX) to protect online users.

March 3, 2009

Digital Wasteland

Filed under: Uncategorized — Danny Petre @ 9:20 am


The other day when I forgot the password to my Plymouth State alumni email I began thinking about the wasteland of Digital Dirt that is in never never land.  I took a quick assessment of my current and past email accounts and social network profiles and it read something like this:






Current email and Social Networking Accounts:


Mcgarrybowen email

Columbia email

Plymouth State Alumni email (which I don’t know the pass word for)

Yahoo email for DigiComm

Yahoo personal email

Other random Yahoo email that I don’t remember the password for

Gmail email



Harvard Business Review social network

Columbia SCE students and alumni social network

Google Doc

Google Pics


Google Groups
Yahoo Groups



Past email and Social Networking Accounts:


A couple Yahoo accounts from college (I think)

My very first email account with AOL

Publicis Groupe email (now inactive, but likely archived somewhere)

Plymouth State email (also inactive, but likely archived)

MySpace account




Then I began to list the other personal information that is digitized:


Bank of American online (I don’t know the last time I wrote a paper check.  Even if I do, it is scanned a put online.)

Discover Card

American Express online

AOL Instant messenger &

Mac MobileMe

GoDaddy Account





Mobile Speed Pass

MTA MetroCard

Boarder’s Rewards Card

Barns & Noble Rewards Card

Footlocker Rewards Card

Store #1 Credit Card (I don’t want to divulge all my credit cards!)

Store #2 Credit Card

Store #3 Credit Card (I don’t have a credit problem, trust me)

Bank of America Credit Card

Columbia Student ID Card

Columbia Club Membership Card profile

Google Docs

Google Pics


Google Groups
Yahoo Groups


Business & Writing WordPress account

Current Digital Dirt WordPress blog account




This, I fear, is only the tip of my “digital iceberg.”  It is truly amazing how much of my information is digitized.  How in the world can I (we) manage our digital footprint if I can even remember my email password?


Truth be told—everything that is personal is digitized (except for my journal and the “to-do” list stuck on my refrigerator).


March 2, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Danny Petre @ 11:40 am

Just a little ranting for a moment:

I hate WordPress.  I can’t add videos, I can’t add photos.  My fonts are all f’ed up.  So my previous post sucked… Not because I suck, but because WordPress diminished me to sucking. 

Ironically I am able to add the below photo!


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