Celebrities and politicians seem to learn the hard way that, once personal information is on the internet, it stays there for eternity. Even for less-famous people like you and me, at this point in social media history, it’s possible to have some regrets about past public internet engagement. Hilarious photos from your senior prom that now seem a bit . . . “wish I had not posted those?” A heated opinion exchange on Facebook or Twitter about a topic no longer relevant but ouch! Who says those words out loud anymore?
More seriously, these days any search engine can quickly reveal your phone number, address, and even some family information, often with surprising detail. Check it out from sites like White Pages and Spokeo. Trolls can find this information and, if they combine it with social media posts, it can open a channel for them to bully, harass, or stalk any of us.
What To Do About This?
There are lists of people aggregator sites, and through these sites you can go through steps to opt-out of being listed. I suggest you set up a temporary email account just to receive the opt-out confirmations that will follow. Look at IntelTechniques full list of people finder sites and use their workbook to opt out. You might also want to check Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which has information for consumers about government records, plus public v. private information. And, The New York Times information security team has a site that includes links to some of the largest people finder sites.
Opting Out Can Take Some Work
You’ll find it’s not as quick as just unsubscribing from email sources you don’t like. Be prepared to sit down and go through all the steps to have your information removed. Also—be careful. In the process of opting out, you should never have to give additional information such as a driver’s license number or phone number. Don’t give any additional information when you are opting out of a people finder site’s database.
At Aptica, we know that a business owner’s personal information can be used by bad actors when they are looking for ways to breach your company security. That’s why we think it’s important for you to take some time to see what comes up when you search your own name online. Speaking cynically, privacy is perhaps now just a nostalgic notion from our recent past. Just as you keep an eye on your credit report, now you should also periodically search for your name online and see what might turn up. Cybersecurity is a specialty here at Aptica. Call us if you think your business might not be fully protected. It’s always worth a conversation.
Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium sized businesses for 16 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo, OH.