Is Privacy out of our Control?

Privacy on the Internet has been a big topic in the media this week, as well as on social networking sites. Especially Facebook, where it seems there’s a new alert in a friend’s feed almost everyday about new ways the social media site is trying to make member information open to anyone.

I’m a pretty open person. As a writer, my name is in the public domain often and I’ve opened certain facts of our lives up in my book about my brother’s life, “No Immediate Threat: The story of an American Veteran,” as well as opening up a good portion of our lives here at Living Large. In addition, I’m a freelance writer whose office is also my home, so certain contact information has to be made public so clients can find me for jobs.

On my social media sites, I accept friend invitations from most people. However, it’s still disconcerting to me that social media sites are seemingly doing everything they can possibly do to slip out information to the general public that you think you’re only posting for your friends and fans.

Then there comes word of this site, spokeo.com, which lists an alarmingly amount of information about you, your home, job and salary.

It’s quite an eye opener as to the type of information available to anyone with a computer.

I can actually see my mother shaking her head in disgust and my father’s bald head turning red over that one, having come from a generation where someone’s personal finances, including their home’s value and their salary was an absolute taboo subject outside of the family.

Although quite a bit of the information was inaccurate on spokeo, a comment I’ve seen made by more than one person, I really didn’t like the idea of that kind of information being on what they’ve dubbed, “Not Your Grandma’s phone book.”

At least you can go down to the bottom of the page, hit privacy and you can have the information removed.

I was then reading the comments on an article about the Facebook controversy and I think some of the people commenting have a point when they write that if you don’t want certain personal information out there, you wouldn’t post it anyplace, even on a site where you think only your friends are reading.

It does sometimes make me flinch as to the amount of personal stuff people sometimes post.

TMI, IMO…LOL.

Still, I’ve never posted the type of information spokeo.com claimed to have on us.

Others commented that in today’s information age, there’s no possible way to stop the flow of our private information, that nothing is sacred. Our credit history, criminal background (if there is any), previous addresses, net worth, phone numbers, political and religious affiliations and even posts and photos from our “closed” social media sites (for some people that even means what they had for dinner or the last argument they had with their spouse) are up for grabs on any number of sites for anyone with $49.95.

Maybe I still like to think I can control what information is in the public domain and what I choose to keep private here at Our Little House.

Unreasonable? What do you think of today’s privacy issues?

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12 Responses

  1. Reader says:

    Thank you very much for the info on spokeo – I’d not heard of that one yet. Snopes has some interesting info about it:
    http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/spokeo.asp
    Well worth the read.
    Mahalo! (Thank you in Hawaiian)
    Dee

  2. MarthaandMe says:

    It is pretty mind-blowing when you think about it. We always tell our kids not to put anything on Facebook they don’t want future employers to see!

    • Good advice! I’ve done quite a few articles for business trade publications. Employers are looking at those social networking sites when they do comprehensive background checks on applicants.

  3. Alexandra says:

    Totally agree on these privacy issues. I feel hesitant to even use Facebook, although my kids insisted that I needed a page ….

  4. Grant Wagner says:

    Don’t touch spokeo!!! All the information displayed is already public records which the government requires to puplish in various ways. It’s a very ugly experment in data mining.

    However, I believe they are only collecting the information for their own needs, and things like the privacy button and the updates are only to weed out the truely false data. When my wife and I looked up the information of me and my family, we saw some scary public truths, but also a ton of very incorrect information, which I suspect was only there to incite us to correct it.

    Remember that no matter how private it may seem, the internet is a public forum. Anything posted can easily be shown to anyone. Facebook is especially evil. It clearly states in the terms of use and anything and everything posted to anyones site is the property of facebook and they can do with it as they wish.

    The side truth is that there are a lot of machine available to the internet, many of which have remote control viruses called bots which make up bot nets. Using one of these a malitious person can force open a yahoo mail account in a matter of seconds, like what happened to my monther.

    • You’ve scared me even further, Grant. The fact is with Facebook is that you can’t hardly have a business anymore without a heavy web presence. I’ve found more writing assignments through contacts on FB this year than any other marketing I’ve done. So, I guess it’s one of those necessary evils. As for spokeo, I didn’t do anything but delete our “records.” I hope that didn’t touch off anything!

  5. Susan says:

    It is very scary…you can do a people search and find people with their phone numbers and addresses as well. Some people you will find and others you will not.
    I have a facebooks acct which I am seriously thinking of deleting. I was actually approached by someone that had hacked into a friends account asking me to wire them money so they could get out of England, because they had been mugged…..well I kept them chatting and asking for proof of who they were and even told them to call me collect. When I finally got ahold of the friend, she popped online and said “I didn’t know I was in England” good thing I had already copied and pasted the chat and sent it to Facebooks because they deleted the conversation. Makes you wonder if anyone has gotten into your own acct and done the same thing to another friend. Especially someone who is really not a close friend that would check to see if that was for real.
    Yep, we sure do live in very scary times and I don’t think it is going to get any better.

    • I’ve heard of that scam, Susan. The key, I’ve been told by my techy friends, is to change your password often.

      • Bj says:

        My son is the one who alerted me to spokeo.com. It was a bit uncomfortable to see what was out there, and like you, Kerri, I had never posted any of that. Thank goodness it was a bit dated on the address and income! I did delete myself, then checked and deleted my other children.
        But Spokeo.com is but one of many of this kind of webpage. publicdata.com is another one that has much data on people, and accessible to anyone for a price.
        My son has an online store, and as such uses Facebook, and Twitter to help the world know about his products. You really do have to have some internet moxy in order to stay abreast of business and family.
        Hard to believe that the technology that was supposed to make us paperless, has instead made it so easy to find people, take in their info and use it against them!
        Maybe it is time to go back to old fashioned hand written letters, handshakes for business deals, and slow down the pace!

        • I agree, BJ. Sometimes I wonder what we did without the Internet, and then sometimes I’m of the nostalgic mind. In ways, things were so much easier then without all the info and being able to reach each other 24/7 by emails and cell phones!