Thursday, April 15, 2010

Anonymity

A few days ago I wrote about a using search engine other than Google.

Someone asked why some people are "trying to get off Google". To that question I have no good answer.

(I confess that I do not back up my Gmail very often, so if Google suddenly when out of business it would cause me difficulties. But that is my irresponsibility, not their issue. And it does not seem very likely.)

I know many people are worried about their privacy. I do little about it, because I know I actually have very little.

(I stopped using Tor, but am glad it helps others.)

For example, Zillow lets everyone see details about your home. CampaignMoney and NewsMeat let everyone see your political contributions. DomainTools and NetworkSolutions let everyone see your website registration whois information.

I try to keep my cell phone number easy to find and my house address off the internet. For the most part I am successful.

Today, thanks to an e-mail from my father, I found a site named Spokeo that had somehow gotten my house address. Does it have yours?
To remove yourself from Spokeo:
  1. Search for yourself, find yourself, and click on your name
  2. In the address bar, select and copy the URL for your listing
  3. Click on "privacy" at the very bottom of the page on the right side
  4. Paste the URL that you copied and follow the other directions
I found it interesting that anyone can remove any Spokeo listing. When I removed mine there was no effort to check that it was really me who made the request.

What other kinds of personal information are freely available online? I'm sure there is more that I do not know about. For example, Spokeo seemed to follow magazine subscriptions--did they pay for that information from magazines that sell subscription lists or simply look it up online from another source?

1 comment:

cayswann said...

On Spokeo: A friend sent me a "warning! check this!" email about the site this week. Spokeo aggregates information publically available online, so "click privacy" just removes the aggregated record from Spokeo. It doesn't remove any of the source material. I had to explain that to the email author.

For domain registrations and whois, this is why I spend the money for a mailing address several miles away from my residential address.

One friend uses the phrase "perceived transparency." He readily puts *certain* information into the public domain, and so there is a perception of transparency into his life. However, he controls that content carefully, and to know more you would have to be an actual, in real life friend.

This is my approach, too.

But my behavior on Google does not fall outside the parameters of my carefully controlled internet behavior in general. So I feel good about my use of Google.

This article: http://zenhabits.net/2010/03/google-free/
... came across my feeds about the time you posted your comments on the Google search engine. So again, I didn't see my Google reliance to be outside my privacy comfort level. But maybe I'm already more cognizant of these issues in my own internet usage.