How to Completely Disappear from the Digital Grid

Social networking users not interested in changing their names but still looking for ways to protect themselves online now have a new guide in the form of a book out this week from the ‘Dear Abby’ of disappearing, Frank M. Ahearn.   What do you need to know? Call it the 21st century Wilderness survival guide.

In “How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails and Vanish Without a Trace,” Ahearn and co-author Eileen C. Horan take a career’s worth of practice tracking down criminals and protecting celebrities and adapt it to the digital age, going straight to the concerns of average Americans now fluent in the language of data mining, data leaks and privacy violations.

While Google CEO Eric Schmidt took flak for suggesting users change their names to protect their privacy, Ahearn and Horan take it one step further, instructing readers to slowly change their social media profiles to bogus data until they can fake their own death, online.

The authors say people must relearn how to communicate and go back to using prepaid phone cards, free Wi-Fi, and disposable memory sticks in order to leave no trace. Sounds like the 1980s to us.

The self-proclaimed “privacy duo” warn especially of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and the ‘digital footprint’ users leave every time they update their profile, post a picture or ‘check-in’ at the local coffeehouse. (No doubt Ahearn and Horan are not the mayors of anywhere on Foursquare.) They recommend deleting all social media accounts and never making calls from a home or cell phone that can be traced back to you.

While much of Ahearn’s advice is impractical, who among us can, or wants to, return solely to land lines, phone booths and cash, it’s a good reminder of not putting ourselves completely ‘out there’ online.

The book is available starting this week for $16.95 on Amazon.com. So we guess in this instance Ahearn would be okay with people releasing their personal, financial data online, trace or not?