Monday, November 30, 2009

How to Un-Google Yourself...

We're all paranoid in these days of digital camera phones and online social networks of somebody posting an embarrassing picture of ourselves, only to have it indexed by a search engine which will archive it and make it live forever.

Much has been written by privacy advocates on how to protect yourself from that happening. Untagging, formally requesting a photo be removed from a site, and various SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques to bury the pic in search listings. These are all recommended, and they all help, but they're not perfect solutions either.

Well, here's another. Wired has posted instructions for how to hide a photo or website from Google's search engine entirely. And it's remarkably simple. Webmasters need simply to create a simple text file, save it as "robots.txt", and add it to their web host in its top-level folder. The actual body of the text file need only include these lines:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Apparently, if this "robots.txt" file exists on the server, Google and other search engines "will be stopped cold in their tracks" and will bypass indexing the site's contents. It's a handy and extremely easy solution for people who want to host potentially embarrassing material on their website, but don't necessarily want to destroy people's lives.


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