The Internet doesn't forget

I know, its been a while…  Even longer since I have done a full fledged post.  I have been busy with work, my personal life (YES I do have one!) and a side project I am working on.

Anyway, I was hit up by a friend (for the sake of my sanity, I will call her T) that had one of her friends (again for my sanity, lets go with R) contacted her freaking out.

Apparently R had picked up a bad case of “Internet Stalker” and needed help on what to do.  T talked to R, and found out she had talked to her stalker on the phone; This would not be out side the scope of R’s profession.  T did a google search on R’s number and found that the second hit was in fact her on a government website for the license she requires for her job.

This was done via google.  It did not need to authenticate (no username or password) to get this information.  It is public and open to anyone. So of course R is very upset at the sate that put the information available online, for anyone to view, as are a few of her friends that also are listed on the same publicly accessible database.

I used the information on the website, and found R’s birth date, home address and what types of music she likes and things she finds entertaining and places she might visit.  This all started from googling R’s phone number.  It is very common to get this information or more about people if you know where to look.

Just to run this point home, I did a look up of someone who used to bully and pick on me as a kid.  I haven’t thought about this person for over 10 years. The only information I had for google was his full name, last known location and his age. Google lead me to information about him, where he lives currently (Full Address), his phone number, his Facebook, his wife and kids (Full names and birth dates), where he works, and his purchase history.  That took me all of about 10 minutes to find, and honestly I got bored so I didn’t keep digging. If someone wanted to mess with this guys life, they would have a pretty easy time doing it at this point.

**Side note, I’m not doing anything with this information.  I don’t need a repeat of freshman year at FHS…

What recourse does R and her friend’s have against the state for putting their information out on the internet?  Surprisingly little. The information that is provided by the state’s website would be considered general information for all intents in purposes, since it is not restricted by a law.  R and her friends can raise a petition to request that this policy changes for the state that is publishing the information, but they will need a significant number of people that back the petition, and there is no guarantee that the state will do anything about the issue. In the case of my past bully, be careful about what you put online, because the Internet doesn’t forget, it just archives.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) fights for our right to privacy in an age of ever increasing levels of data collection.   If you are worried about your privacy you should support the EFF.