As a follow up to my earlier post which asked and answer the question What is Spokeo?, I thought I would have a deeper play around with the system and try to find out what it found about myself online that perhaps I needn’t make public.
Before going into detail, I just want to qualify myself a little. I am a computing professional and have been for a number of years. As such I am always a little skeptical when it comes to using IT. I know that systems fail, they get hacked, and unscrupulous people can use systems and the information contained within them for purposes for which they were not necessarily built. For that reason, I don’t trust my private information to a site without some forethought and consideration.
Public vs Private Information
When I first started putting my information online, I always tried to ensure that private information stayed private and public information was not going to damage me in any way. As a business owner who works from home, I don’t publish a business trading address, only the registered address for the company. Likewise, I try not to publish private phone/mobile numbers unless the system in question can guarantee some safeguards to the information. If I use a number, it is usually not one that can be linked directly back to my home address, I just think that’s pertinent. One last thing, I don’t choose to publish my email address, unless it is within a “closed” system (i.e. to obtain it you have to have an account with the same provider)
In addition to the above, I don’t overtly volunteer details of my gender, religion, politics or relationship status, although you may be able to guess. Neither to my knowledge have I ever published a non doctored picture of myself. (Those people who tag me on Facebook really bug the shit out of me, but at least you can remove the tag)
Now, all that said, I am all over the place online, I Zoom Blogs at BloggingZoom (brilliant site for Bloggers who want traffic by the way), Stumble, Digg, Facebook, Myspace etc. etc. blah blah blah. This flurry of social networking started around 2 years ago, about the same time I started to embrace the crack that is blogging. What I did do, is set up my blog on this domain (stirlyn.co.uk) which I bought back in November 2003. I started signing up for accounts on many social networks using the same email address and also the same avatar/icon/profile picture as you see in the top left corner of the banner of this blog. I also decided that I was going to attempt to “brand” Stirlyn as a writer and photographer. Thus most information online from 2005 till now (and hopefully in the future) relates to these subjects in some way shape or form.
Now, because I am online under my real name as well, as a web designer, writer and a photographer, I had to make some decisions. I decided I was going to try and keep Stirlyn and my real identity separate for a while. At least until I knew what I was going to be doing career-wise. This blog and my photoblog were experiments after all, I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up with them, and didn’t know what stuff I would be writing about, so it seemed prudent to at least try to protect my offline persona (at least to the casual observer).
So there’s the rules all set, enter Spokeo and what I found.
- Well for a start, contrary to all what’s said above, on import I find that I have my work email and personal email linked on one profile. Bang goes one rule
- I’ve got my relationship status blaring on another publicly available profile. Bang goes another rule
- Part of my email address is visible on yet another public profile, though thankfully this one is empty and not linked to anything else (only half a rule then)
- OK another site, where my gender is on display
- Got my instant messenger and email details available on another
Can you see where I am going here. I am self conscious about revealing too much personal information online, and yet I have been careless enough to volunteer that very same information online via social networking sites. Secure in the knowledge that these sites offer me the subscriber a degree of privacy, I neglected to actually check what information is actually made publicly available in line with my own rules. I used Spokeo to check my own information, perhaps it was not meant for that but I found it a very useful eye opener all the same.