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How to Vanish Online

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posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 04:53 AM
We're all 'netizens' now. Like it or not, none of us can avoid spending part of our lives in the obscure territory known as cyberspace. We are no longer occasional visitors, as in the early days of the Net, passers-through in search of information or services; these days, part of us lives permanently online. We have email accounts, we hang out in chat rooms and forums like this one, we store documents, pictures and videos there. We create a presence for ourselves on the internet.

This presence, on its travels across the Web, leaves a trail. And it is not an ephemeral presence; potentially, it could outlast flesh and blood, enduring as long as the servers stay up.

Increasingly, many of us are worried by this online trail, this legacy of content we leave behind, and by what it says about us. And we have reason to be worried: job seekers are sometimes confronted with embarrassing or compromising words or pictures by or about them; others have found their creative work stolen and used for profit by others, or data they left behind conflated with other people's to libellous effect - your head photoshopped onto someone else's naked body, for example, and emailed round your office or classroom.

The internet has given us any number of potential nighmares like this, but to date there's been very little we could do about it (other than bringing a paralyzing self-consciousness and near-paranoia to all our activities online). So we've just accepted the potential danger, tried to police ourselves as best we could and hoped for the best.

Now, for the first time, there seems to be a better recourse.

It's called Vanish. Basically, it's a form of coding you can use to cause your messages and other data disappear, over time, from the internet.

Vanish is a research system designed to give users control over the lifetime of personal data stored on the web or in the cloud. Specifically, all copies of Vanish encrypted data — even archived or cached copies — will become permanently unreadable at a specific time, without any action on the part of the user or any third party or centralized service.

For example, using the Firefox Vanish plugin, a user can create an email, a Google Doc document, a Facebook message, or a blog comment — specifying that the document or message should "vanish" in 8 hours. Before that 8-hour timeout expires, anyone who has access to the data can read it; however after that timer expires, nobody can read that web content — not the user, not Google, not Facebook, not a hacker who breaks into the cloud service, and not even someone who obtains a warrant for that data. That data — regardless of where stored or archived prior to the timeout — simply self-destructs and becomes permanently unreadable.

I tried it. It seems to work easily enough. You simply download the software (free for now) and encrypt your messages and other data by copying them into a screen window. You use the same windo to decrypted Vanish-encoded messages from other people. Or, instead of downloading, you could use the demo online service.

I think Vanish is revolutionary. It has a lot of implications: technological, social, political, even sexual. It will probably change the way we function on the internet and possibly our entire perception of cyberspace. So let's have your views and opinions about all that.

It would be great to hear a few user experiences and views, too.

[edit on 17/8/09 by Astyanax]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:10 AM
So I have a choice between web based immortality or vanishing completely over time, a virtual decomposition to match the corpse? I'm really not too sure about that, requires a little more thought. Instant reaction, I'm thinking no, I don't think I mind the tracks I leave, warts and all, but then I don't do social networking so embarassment potential is limited and generally don't put photos online. I can see the benefit for younger people, there are things I did in my teens and early twenties that I would rather were not made available for mass consumption. The young should be young without fear of it coming back to bite them on the ass, and if you don't make mistakes when you're that age then you're not doing it right.

In conclusion, mixed feelings.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 06:56 AM
reply to post by Astyanax
Hiya A, nicely written OP.

Where I can see something like 'Vanish' being useful is for dissidents and whistleblowers. My favorite recent blog was 'Nightjack' a Lancashire CID officer pointing out the stupidity of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act. He was exposed by the ***** Times, carpeted and had the blog deleted. If domestic and foreign bloggers can put a time limit on the existence of the blogs, the information reaches people without hanging around long enough to hang them. An example could be an Eastern human rights supporter alerting foreign news companies quickly.

Like Tor and proxies, it'll mainly get used by high-schoolers to cause mischief and harass classmates and celebrities on Facebook.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 07:30 AM
reply to post by Astyanax

I like this.

I am not personally worried about anything I ever did online (or offline
), so I don't think I'll be using it, but it looks like an important step forward in "managing" the online life of the world as a web. And that I like.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by Ethereal Gargoyle]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 07:56 AM

your head photoshopped onto someone else's naked body.

I am a nudist so that would be a waste of someone time.

I have never posted my real name on the internet.

The name i use is a misspelled variant of my name.

"I" also have never posted my photo on the net.
The photos on the net of me have no name connected with them.
One of them is of me nude at burning man, but with the sunglasses and the temp hair color no one would require me anyway.
The rest of the photos are from years ago and before the beard.

And yes i have photo shopped someone head to a nude body.
Revenge is sweet.

But it was very hard to find a very hairy nude body to put the flakes head on

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 07:57 AM
This is awesome...

We all tend to sometimes be a bit sloppy on the net and we sometimes give

our personal info out very easily. Great find S & F!

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 09:22 AM
reply to post by coodeytar

So I have a choice between web based immortality or vanishing completely over time, a virtual decomposition to match the corpse?

You don't have to choose, really. Simply don't put any content you want to keep permanently online through the Vanish sausage machine. Save it for sensitive material.

reply to post by Kandinsky

Absolutely. I live in a country where the government censors and makes war on the media. There have been physical casualties - many of them. Something like Vanish would give people more courage to speak out.

reply to post by ANNED

While you have no personal use for this, I'm sure you see how it could be useful to others - for example, to your potential victims, who could use it to deprive you of raw material for slanderous PhotoShopping.

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