spacing hack


No Secret Is Safe On Teh Internets 20110205

It's kinda spooky when you think about it. The internet can turn anyone into a stalker. Even lazy people.

Here's my story.

I was watching a show yesterday that profiled several people. Some of the people revealed their full names and the towns they lived in. But one woman just used her first name and state.

The outdoor shots of this woman's house made me fairly convinced that I knew what the town was.

And though they only identified her state, her house number was clearly shown in one shot. Knowing this, I:

  • went to the real estate appraiser's web site for the county I thought the house was in
  • plugged in just the house number
  • got a list of results and went through each of the links
  • each link even had ground level shots of the homes themselves (which saved me the step of plugging each address into google street view to get that same information)
  • I found a listing that I was pretty sure was the right house
  • plugging that information into google street view, I did a 360 and verified that it looked exactly like the outdoor shots of that house and the neighborhood
  • using reverse address search, I was able to get the woman's full name and phone number

And that's where my story ends.

Had I been a stalker, I could've used this information for stalkery purposes. Instead it just was a "hey cool, I was right!" (Though if you want to be technical, I actually guessed the wrong town, but the correct general area.)

Though I hadn't seen it on the first playthrough, the street sign was even shown in a couple of shots. So given the intersection names and the house number, I could've skipped the county appraiser's office and gone straight to google maps. That right there opens up the range of lazy people who would be able to find this woman's information.

I assume the woman wanted to remain fairly anonymous, otherwise she would've been like the other people who gave their full names and town information. So the show crew did her a pretty big disservice by including shots with such specific information (the intersection street sign and her house number).

And it all comes back to the fact that no secret is safe on teh internets. The wrong kind of person will use any personal details to form a bigger picture of who you are.

And somewhere in that lesson, the question is begged:

Are you actually safer if you protect your privacy less?

I'm not even a stalker but I can admit there is a certain satisfaction in the thrill of the hunt. Of information, that is. If I had to hunt my own food, I'd starve.

And of course, I'm sure there's no cut and dried answer to my question, but it does seem like you might be encouraging certain types of people to track down your information, if you actively try to protect it. So in some ways, I feel like you either have to take a laissez-faire approach, or you must be vigilant as to never reveal any personal details about yourself, if you really wish to remain anonymous. Or heck, throw in some false personal details as to distract people from the real you.

Like, did you know that I have a PhD... in being awesome?