Digital Dirt

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 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.

February 17, 2009

Playing in the Mud


Me Playing in Literal Mud

Me Playing in Literal Mud

Over the past three weeks I have intentionally been expanding my Digital Dirt.  An active and healthy digital footprint, like your sex life, can help you in many ways.  First, it helps get the the “good” Dirt about you higher in search results.  Second, it allows you to have some sense of control over the information that is out there on you.   Active creation of your digital footprint is the only way you can actually “control” your Dirt, for your passive digital footprint the best you can do is manage it. 


What I have done:

I started a Twitter account.  In the past three weeks I have only Twitted (I think that is the/a verb) three times.  I am struggling to fit Twitter into my daily online behavior.  I am constantly on Facebook, my iGoogle page, LinkedIn, and various blogs (this one included), but I can’t seem to find time to obsessively Twit.  Oh well…  Maybe when I’m done with grad school and I have more free time.

A bigger step: I have registered two domain names: and  Since I am relatively remedial at building a website I have been consulting The Site Wizard for guidance.  A very helpful site that walks you through step-by-step from selecting domain names, to selecting a web host, and finally the actual design of the site.  I will keep everyone posted on when my site goes live.  Hopefully within the next week.  I used GoDaddy to register my domains and they have been very helpful, but their site usability is trash.  I let them know that when they made their follow-up call this morning.


So, what should I include on my website?  Recommendations are welcome!

February 11, 2009


Filed under: Controlling Your Digital Footprint — Tags: , , , , — Danny Petre @ 7:32 pm


The Suleman Octuplets are only two weeks old and already have a digital footprint that rivals most (except Paris Hilton and Obama perhaps).  Part of their Dirt Trail is because crazy invetro-mom decided to create a website to solicit donations.  I hope the sperm donor had brains because they aren’t getting any from mom’s side of the family tree.

On the site you can send a comment to the mom and family, but unfortunately for us we can’t view them.  I bet she is getting some zingers.



February 10, 2009

You Dirty Dog

Filed under: Measuring Your Digital Footprint — Tags: , , , , — Danny Petre @ 12:00 pm



googling_yourselfIn December 2007, Pew Internet, as part of Internet & American Life Project completed a study to better understand how internet users perceive their online image and their online usage habits as it relates to Dirt.  Interestingly, and not surprisingly, most US adults have “Googled” themselves–about 60%.  Though many adults try to maintain an “active digital footprint” for image and professional purposes, such as personal web pages, social networking sites and the like, many were shocked to discover what Pew calls their “passive digital footprint.”  By passive they mean Dirt that is out there that we, the user, did not intend or know was available.  21% were surprised how much  information was out there on them (and that was just a Google search).  60% say they are worried about the amount of Dirt that exists in the digital world, and a full 61% want to limit said Dirt; yet only 21% are actively making attempts to reduce their digital information.

In my next post I will shed some light on how you can go about understanding the size and nature of your Dirt.  And ultimately how you can attempt to manage it.  In the mean time check out: 

EMC2 has a tool (one of many tools out there) that helps you measure your Dirt and keeps a running tally once you answer a few question on a downloadable application (a.k.a. more Dirt).    After answering a few questions about your habits (like do you drive to work or take public transportation?) it tells you how many bites of Dirt exist in the digital world, but it doesn’t tell you what the Dirt is, or where to find it, or how to get rid of it (or exploit it for that matter).  Since January 1, 2009 I have about 22,0000,0000,000 bites of information.  Yes, 22 billion bites of information!  



February 7, 2009

Lets Get Dirty

Filed under: Measuring Your Digital Footprint — Tags: , , , — Danny Petre @ 3:32 pm

Dirt: gossip, information.  Interestingly, according to Urban Dictionary, “dirt” can also mean: “criminal activity. e.g. ‘doing dirt…muthaf***a!'” Thank you Devdawugla for that contribution to society.  The digital world is full of Dirt.  ON ME, ON YOU, ON EVERYONE.  Even my mom who doesn’t even know how to turn a computer on has a Digital Dirt out there.  She has EZpass, a credit card, a phone, a cell phone, and this list goes on.  The common phrase for our digital existence is Digital Footprint.  This includes everything on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, dating sites, discussion boards, and so on.

This blog will focus on the Dirt that’s out there on us.  Who’s collecting it, how their using it, what we should be doing to protect ourselves and limit the amount of Dirt out there.  I’ll also look at how the Dirt can help us.  A positive personal image, and the image of brands online is important given that the web is an ever increasing resource of information.  

Check out to measure your digital footprint over the course of a typical day: Digital Footprint Grid

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