If you are a bit paranoid, like me, you may find the idea that baddies can discover things about you on the internet terrifying. Even getting Facebook messages from people I don't know freaks me out. Three cheers, then, for Garlik, the online safety company, which has created a system of measuring how prominent you are on the internet and, therefore, how paranoid you are entitled to be.
Garlik's website, www.qdos.com (kudos, get it?), measures your "digital status" using your name and postcode; it works out your rating based on popularity, impact, activity and individuality. The higher your number the "bigger" you are online.
Popularity examines the number of people you engage with online and the size of your personal network; impact is how many people listen when you post something online; activity is about how much shopping, blogging, chatting and banking you do; individuality looks at how unique you are online, using your name, age and lifestyle.
My rating of Q648 briefly stopped my heart until I read that anything around 500 is "low". A medium presence is 1,000; 2,000 and above is high. So I can stop sleeping with a cricket bat under my pillow?
Not quite, says Garlik's CEO Tom Ilube. How vulnerable you are to identity fraud is about what kind of information is out there, not just how much. "A combination of date of birth, home phone number and your mother's maiden name, for example, puts you at risk." However, he says that having a large online presence isn't always a bad thing. "Our digital status determines how we are perceived and the opportunities available to us."
Already, 16 per cent of people in the UK have chosen a new home based on internet research about their prospective neighbours; 12 per cent have done the same with potential romantic partners; and 20 per cent of us have looked up a boss before accepting a job.
To get us to think about how "much" of us is online, Garlik has compiled a list of the "biggest" internet presences. Number one is the US rapper 50 Cent with a rating of Q10,742, closely followed by the American politician Barack Obama (Q10,623). Other high-ranking stars are Moby and P Diddy.
But the majority of the names are of bloggers. The gossip Perez Hilton is at number four with Q10,389, movie king Harry Knowles is at 20 with Q9,175 and Rafe Needleman, the business and technology blogger, is at three with Q10,415. So in celebration of these giants of the internet some of whom you may never have heard of here is our handy guide to the top 10 bloggers.
Meanwhile, I'm off to turn up my Facebook privacy settings.
Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr, 29, is better known as Perez Hilton. He started his celebrity gossip blog www.pagesixsixsix.com later changed to www.perezhilton.com three years ago. The site shot to fame in its first six months when it was named "Hollywood's most-hated website" by US TV show The Insider. Hilton claims his site has 882 million hits on a normal day, but the reliability of the figures has been disputed. He has been criticised for being suspiciously chummy with the likes of Paris Hilton and has been sued for the unauthorised use of copyrighted photographs. Hilton has also been slammed for "outing" celebrities; on 17 August this year he announced the death of the still-living Cuban president Fidel Castro.
Following an accident in 1994, Knowles was virtually bedridden. To pass the time, he bought a computer and went online. Two years later, he set up the film website "Ain't It Cool News" (www.aintitcool.com); Harry's film reviews pulled no punches. His website is now regarded as so powerful that in 2000, Forbes magazine ranked him Number 95 in their power list. Quentin Tarantino has referred to him as "the Wolf Blitzer of the internet".
The only woman on the list, Arianna Huffington, 57, featured on Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people in 2006. The Greek-born former politician "knows everybody", according to the magazine, and has an opinion about everything. She is the author of 11 books and is a nationally syndicated columnist in the US. Huffington's online presence started with her website www.ariannaonline.com. However, it was in May 2005 when she launched the news and blog site The Huffington Post that the online world sat up and took notice. Having abandoned her former conservative views, the liberal blog quickly became hugely influential and is one of the most widely-read and frequently cited media brands on the internet.
It's little wonder that Douglas's blog, Valleywag (www.valleywag.com), is popular: it trades in gossip about companies and personalities in the computer industry. Although Douglas was fired last year from the blog by the site's owner, Gawker Media, he built it up into one of the US's most popular industry gossip sites. It went online in 2006, outing Google founder Larry Page's relationship with high-ranking employee Marissa Mayer, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt's openmarriage. Douglas was allegedly fired for favouring a small group of internet entrepreneurs and saying Valleywag's goal was to get sued. The blogis now edited by Owen Thomas.
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
Better-known as "Kos", Zuniga is the 36 year-old founder of Daily Kos, the liberal political blog. Born in Chicago and raised in El Salvador, Kos returned to America in 1980. He served in the US Army from 1989 to 1992. After studying at Northern Illinois University and Boston University school of law, Kos set up Daily Kos in 2002. In its first year it is said to have received a million unique visitors. The site ran into trouble in 2004 when Kos criticised mercenaries in Iraq, for which he apologised. The site has 125,000 members and there is an annual conference, YearlyKos, held in June.
Cashmore is the founder and writer of the blog Mashable.com, dedicated to news about social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, Friendster, Bebo and YouTube. Referred to as an internet entrepreneur, the Londoner says on his PeekYou profile that he has had no schooling, and remarks on his Mashable profile that "I run this joint". Pete has 97,387 friends on Mashable.
C ory Doctorow
Canadian blogger, journalist and science-fiction author Doctorow, 36, is the co-editor of award-winning group blog Boing Boing, which calls itself a "directory of wonderful things". The former Greenpeace activist dropped out of four universities and speaks most often about liberalising copyright laws. He is the author of science-fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and the non-fiction work The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction. He also write columns for magazines Popular Science and Make, and contributes to the New York Times Sunday magazine. Not a graduate himself, Doctorow has taught at the University of Southern California.
Crooks and Liars, a blog about American politics, was put online by Amato in 2004. By 2006, it had received the Best Videoblog award at the Bobs (the weblog awards). Other contributors to the blog include Nicole Belle, Steve Benen, Logan Murphy and Howie Klein. The site contains an audio and visual archive of relevant political material. At first there was no original material but in 2005, the site began to distribute its own audio interviews with politicians and commentators.
A relative newcomer to blogging, Lennartz is the co-founder of technology website and blog, Smashing Magazine. Not one for the casual browser, it is a tecno-heavy resource for web designers and developers. They promise to "smash" web developers with useful information. Lennartz is the owner of Dr Web Magazine, and the co-founder of the site, Vitaly Friedman, is the creator of The Web Developer's Handbook.
San Francisco-based Needleman started out in 1988 covering business and technology stories in print at InfoWorld. He has been the editor-in-chief of Byte and the editor of Corporate Computing. From 1997 to 1998 he was the editor of technology website CNET.com and during the dot.com bubble he was the editor of RedHerring.com. His blog, "Rafe's blog: technology, start-ups and other unpublishable items", has been running since 2004.
Additional reporting by Ida Bergstrom