The Unicorn of Privacy

unicorn of privacy

Privacy Rant 77…That creepy guy Steve at work? He knows where you live – and you told him, even though you didn’t realize it at the time.

I keep seeing helpful tips about how to be safe. The problem is that they are mostly wrong. Whether you are talking about Facebook and social media or general life, you are broadcasting much more information than you want to.

I’m not trying to be provocative or to anger anyone. I’m trying to get people to stop focusing on small details at the expense of bigger concerns.

You can take logical precautions to be safer, and you should. But you need to know that social media isn’t the biggest danger. I can’t help but get irritable when I read long posts from “experts” about what to do or not do on social media, including posting photos, tagging your location, or sharing. Where you are is already publicly available to Creepy Steve. He’s not on your Facebook – and he doesn’t need to be.

Do you have a birthday? Since you are reading, I’m assuming ‘yes’ is the answer. Do other people know when it is? Again, ‘yes’ probably applies. I’m not even talking about the year – just the day and month. Whether it is visible to anyone on social media or you have a party or communal card-signing by coworkers, you’ve given away the only information a person needs to find you.

Click this link: https://goo.gl/yG4vMu for the Arkansas Voter Registration page. (Yes, you could go to the courthouse and look at the information. But to keep it more authentic, I’m using information you can use at home, without putting down your bag of Cheetos.) Since the site doesn’t kick you off for guessing wrong, you can keep guessing the year or the exact spelling. When you succeed, you will have the registered voter’s address. Not a registered voter?

You can access property records online. (Yes, you could go to the courthouse for them, too.) For example, here is 1 link for the Carroll County property records: /www.actdatascout.com/CountyHome/PublicRealEstateSearchByName. Start with less information, such as last name only and keep going. You will eventually find the person’s property records, a map and layout of their house, copies of deeds, the school districts, and aerial shot of the house, access to pictures of the front, where the doors and windows are, what kind of utilities they use (and who the companies are), and examples of the person’s signature. Among other things. Don’t own property, either? I’ll get to that later.

For most of us, even without discussing social media, the fact that you vote or own property – two common and vital activities in our society – exposes you to privacy concerns. I mentioned the birthday point because so many people believe they are doing well by not having their year of birth shared, or visible only to close friends. The truth is that none of that matters. Any acknowledgement of your birthday, public or private, cyber or real, exposes you to intruders, as does owning property or voting.

So, as you read all the viral safety tips posted by family, friends, and law enforcement, please remember that where you live is probably available to anyone.

P.S. If you are going to worry about every little thing, stop and consider all those school stickers or silhouettes people stick all over their fancy SUVs. Each of them identifies either that you have children of a certain age or where you yourself went to school. Creepy Steve can misuse that information. A few months ago, someone was bragging about how protective they were of such information and I could clearly see how many kids they had and where they went to school – all from seeing the back of their vehicle. She was dumbfounded because it had never occurred to her that she was driving around in a vehicular billboard broadcasting to the world how many kids she had and where they could be found. (And it had nothing to do with social media.)

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