Saturday, January 15, 2011

Threats From The Internet

Try entering your real name and city into google sometime.  The results are surprising.

The culprit is the telephone company.  Many years ago, they got the idea that they could make money by publishing their customer information data, including: name, address and phone number, in a book with special yellow pages in the back to sell advertising.  The idea was a huge hit and made a lot of money.

To protect themselves from any concern over privacy or liability from their new "phone book", the telephone companies went from country to country, state to state, and city to city making sure all the necessary local laws declared the data in these books "public information" just like court records.

Zoom ahead about eighty years and you have a number of internet companies (including Yahoo) who get the idea they can take this public information data and build a website that might get some hits.  Combine this with Facebook, Myspace and a number of other sites you voluntarily joined but didn't read the terms of service, and all someone really needs to get a great deal of information about you off the web is your real name and where you live.

This information has been available for generations, but nobody really cared about it because to search non-local phone books, one usually had to go to a fairly large library.  Now, with the Internet, it's easy for any nut job to search  your phone book from the privacy of their own home.

That all this information is so publicly available becomes a problem on SecondLife where people really freak out if their data is known.  The simple act of revealing someones real name and address becomes the most threatening gambit on SecondLife, even though it's not hard to find.

For example: Stefanos, the English abortion fox-hunting guy has struck up some sort of battle with Oggen, the I can get girls naked on cam, even though I have an annoying Swedish voice guy.  After some initial squabbles, Oggen decides to deliver the killing blow by publishing his enemies real name and address, only SURPRISE, the guy's not dead.  He's not really anything except maybe pissed off which rather makes the gambit of publishing somebody's real life information nothing more than a stupid troll meant to piss you off.

It's happened to me several times.  Originally, I thought I'd use SecondLife very publicly and put links to my real life data in my profile, but eventually quit it because it made other people nervous for me to be "exposed" like that, when they weren't.

I still occasionally get people who try and threaten me by saying they have my picture.  As long as it's one off the web and they're not sneaking around taking new pictures of me while I'm shopping I really don't care.

There are ways to limit how much of this information about you is on the web.  Here is a fairly good article on how to do it http://www.squidoo.com/personalInformation

Or you can do like me and assume the people from the internet aren't any more insane or malicious than the people living in your town and just leave the data up there but buy a gun.

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