For years I’ve been using the same username for many websites but with different passwords. I did it for convenience but I also had this vague idea that I was crafting some kind of an overall online identity which would be uniquely identifiable as me, would be consistent over time and would serve as an informal history to build my technical reputation and credibility. But now that I see the results I don’t like it even though there are not any individual postings or fragments of data that I’m ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s just that when I see them all together the effect is unsettling and feels like I’ve been under surveillance all these years.
In some cases I made either bad choices or misinformed decisions. For example, by way of Googling my name recently, I found my work phone number in the web archives of a members only listserv for people in my industry. I recall making the decision to put my phone number in my email signature because I was posting specific information that I thought would help guys doing my same job in other organizations. There are few enough of us that I figured I’d be happy to help if one of them were to call me to ask for more details or advice. The problem is that, while I knew that registered members (i.e., people in my industry) would be able to search the archives, I had no idea that the thread was going to end up on Google. That was just simple misinformed decision. But my initial settings on my Twitter.com account turned out to be a case of making a genuinely bad decision, then forgetting all about it.