Privacy is big business, and your privacy is waning by the day. Basically, you, me, your friend next door or the cubicle over, have no privacy. Not from your employer, not from your neighbor or just about anyone wanting to snoop into your business. Identity theft is also a big business and you don’t want to be a customer.
If you have a common last name, say Johnson, Nguyen or Sanchez, you can likely fly under a lot of radar, unless you have a bizarre first name like Moon Unit or LeBron. If, however, you have a surname that isn’t overly taken, good luck keeping any sort or anonymity.
Do a Google search of yourself, putting parenthesis around your first and last name, and chances are you will be shocked at what you find – likely several pages of links to other websites that have everything from your home address and UNLISTED phone number, to your unpublished cell phone number, your employers for as long as you’ve been gainfully employed, and oh so much more.
A recent search of myself turned up my recent car purchase including the vehicle’s VIN number. The only places that have the VIN on file are the California DMV, my insurance company and the car dealer. Only my car dealer has worked on the car, so there are no fly-by-night garages that did an oil change. I don’t have any tickets – parking or moving violations, so law enforcement didn’t leak the data. CarFax surely has the VIN in its database, but it isn’t tied to me.
So, where did this private information come from and become public? No idea, but I am trying to find out and plug the leak.
Social networks like LinkedIn are great platforms for professional business connections and seeking new employment, however unless you make your profile private, everything in your profile is indexed by Google and Bing, meaning all your jobs, schools and city of residence are easily found by anyone in seconds.
Posting pictures on Facebook can tell anyone with a modest amount of tech skills where you’ve been and where you live by checking the source of the photos you post.
“Checking In” on FourSquare tells people you aren’t home, and when your account is linked to Twitter and Facebook, you are broadcasting the fact you and the family are having pizza the next town over tonight.
Ancestry.com is a scary place if you are even slightly paranoid of being hacked. There is a good chance the Mormon Church, which owns the website, has your marriage date, your spouse’s name and the names and ages of your kids on file.
There are literally dozens of sites that data mine your personal information for profit. Most, however, will remove you from their files if you make a written request – assuming the website posts contact information so you can actually reach an administrator.
Don’t take this lightly – when a website you’ve never heard of has your car’s VIN, there’s no telling what else is floating out there. Search, locate and remove. Do it now!