How to minimize an existing web presence

I got the letter below from an early transitioner:

I just read your article on having the option of going stealth, etc. It terrified me. I am 19 years old and almost fully transitioned, and no one but my family and girlfriend knows about me being transsexual. Except for online. I never even thought about this. I had a whole bunch of chat contacts, my e-mail out everywhere, and worst of all, a webpage, containing my name and pictures of me. Right away I deleted my webpage and all of the chat services I'd been using. Now, the question I am asking: Is there anything you can recommend that I do to reverse what I've already started? If you could please help I'd appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Step 1: replace website(s) and change email address(es).

That's replace, not remove. One problem that happens when you abruptly take down a site is that regular visitors and those with whom you were chatting might start asking questions online, like "Have you seen a young TS named ____ with the email janedoe@carelesstransssexual.com ? She has disappeared." or "A friend's website at www.iamayoungtranssexual.com is gone. Jane had some great TS pictures like the one I've attached below. Does anyone know where I can reach her?" This of course only adds more information linking you and your TS status online.

The best way to avoid having people ask about what happened is to put a very brief note up on your old site, saying "I have taken this site down to protect my privacy. I hope you will help me with this by not sharing my photos or personal correspondence with others." Don't mention anything about your TS status etc.

If you'd like, you can add a line like: "Those wishing to contact me can reach me at: janedoe@throw-away-email.com." Set up a throwaway web-based address and don't use it for correspondence, just closure. Only give out your new email if you're ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of the other person's identity (i.e.: met them in person). Eventually you get rid of that email address, too.

Step 2: Assess the situation.

A: Do a search on Google (http://www.google.com). This will show if anyone has a website up containing information about you. Search the following terms:

    Your full name
    Your "old name" and your "new name" together in separate quotations (to see
    if there is any connection)
    Your email nickname(s)
    Your email address(Es)
    your website address
    Your name and hometown
    Your phone number
    Your street address
    Your name and:
    --TS
    --transsexual
    --transexual
    --sex change

If you do find your site indexed in Google, look at the cached version. That's what people will be able to see until you get it erased.

B: There is a way on Google and others to "nuke" your own website off their search engine if necessary. For more, see: http://groups.google.com/remove.html

C: If someone else has your personal info listed on a website, send them a VERY NICE letter explaining the bind you're in, and VERY NICELY ask them if they would help you by removing the information.

D: Do the same advanced search on Google Groups (http://groups.google.com/advanced_group_search).

E: For good measure, you can do the same search on a few other search engines, too.

If the people you were emailing and chatting with were real transsexuals, they will probably understand and respect your desire for privacy. However, a lot of people online are fakes, psychos, etc. Sometimes they don't understand or care about the need for stealth.


How to minimize an existing presence on newsgroup archives

On September 18, 2001, Google sent the following message regarding their automated USENET archive removal tool:

We now offer an automated removal tool for posts made to Google Groups. This will provide users with more direct control over their posts and ensure that all nuke requests are processed in a timely manner.

If the post/posts you wish to remove were made from your current, active email account, please go to: http://services.google.com:8882/urlconsole/controller and follow the instructions to remove a post.

If the post/posts that you wish to remove were made from a email account which is no longer active or accessible to you, please follow the instructions found at http://groups.google.com/googlegroups/help.html and include a note in your email to us that tells us that you are unable to use the automated tool.

Laura wrote of her first-hand experiences purging approximately 6,000 USENET posts from the Google archive in September 2001:

First off, removing messages from Google requires a rather interesting process to confirm you are the actual author of a message. This requires you to follow their rules *to the letter* or you will simply be ignored.

Also if you want to remove large numbers of messages (more than about 50) you will have to make personal contact with them and give them a good confirmation of your identity. I did this by sending them an e-mail with a password in it they could demand I say to confirm that I am the same person who sent the message and then I made phone contact with them about 3 days later, gave them the password, and explained why I wanted my stuff removed.

Their phone number is: 1-650-330-0100

Once satisfied with my identity and intentions they have proven to be a very cheerful and helpful bunch. But there are technical complications...

Google, at present can only remove *single* messages and then only when you can supply the *exact* message ID. Unlike Deja they have not implemented "Nuke All By Sender" in their administrative scripts, so they can't dump everything from a given address in one pass... but they tell me they are working on it.

If you have a large number of messages in the archive (I had 6,000) removing them all is one hell of a big job. I've been at it every day for a month.

Once you've established their agreement to remove your messages, you have to compile lists of the message IDs you want deleted and e-mail them to them. They will then run a script which removes the messages on your list.

Building the lists this takes a long time since the only place the message ID is visible is in the "Original Format" of each message. This means you have to do a search, click on the message, click on "original format" cut and past the ID into an e-mail and then back out to your search list and do the next one. It takes about an hour to harvest 100 IDs.

Then you run into another complication... their searches bail after 1000 messages. So you have to take out the first bunch before you can get to the next. But, once you start deleting, their scripts only search till they hit a missing messages and then they bail... so be ready to spend a LOT of time searching the Archive, using as many different advanced searches as you can think of, to get them all.

The smart money, if you don't want people finding your stuff in a newsgroup archive is to either:

    A) stay the hell off the newsgroups or

    B) put "X-No-Archive: YES" either in the headers or as the first line of each message.

I recommend staying off newsgroups. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even if you request your posts not be archived, there's nothing stopping someone else from copying your post into their and making it part of the permanent archive where you can do nothing to remove it.

In this section:

Transgender web safety

Safely visiting transgender websites

Safely interacting with others online

Putting up your own website: pros and cons

How to minimize an existing web presence

Readers who have been outed online

Reader tips: online safety

Other web resources