Monday, July 16, 2007

Search and Privacy

Privacy and search run counter to each other. It’s a tough line to walk.

On one hand, you want to be found, and that requires putting a fair bit about yourself online. On the other hand – you’re putting a fair bit about yourself online.

There are definitely pros and cons to both.

On the pro side, look at the recent story on Tommy Devine’s blog about his adopted brother. Tommy’s brother put it all out there on the web, including the full name of his natural mother, which is what led Tommy to find him in the first place by curiously googling his mom’s name one day.

On the con side, just look at the horror Possum endured when some nosy parker asshole took it upon herself to call Possum’s mom apropos of nothing and send her reeling. This story has always frightened me twelve ways to tomorrow.

There are a few very interesting search sites that are newly released that I’d like to blog about, but I thought I’d do a quick post on the nature of search and privacy first.

In a nutshell really, I think internet privacy is an oxymoron. If someone wants to know who you are badly enough, they’ll find it. But, nevertheless, there are a few things you could do.

I think for starters the searcher email is a must. I’m pretty taken aback by the number of people who email me from work email addresses. Seriously they don’t know me from adam and they’re taking a pretty big leap of faith sending me an email from firstname.lastname@easilyrecognizablecompany.com

For me when it comes to searching, I’ve got two email accounts. The first one started a long time ago out of necessity. I’ve done a turnover on yahoo email accounts for years. I’d sign up for one, when it eventually turned into a spam free-for-all I’d abandon it and open a new one. Because I’d been in search for a while, I decided to create the email account I use here just for search mailing lists to keep thing straight and keep my adoption stuff away from my normal stuff. Also, I wanted something a little more anonymous.

The problem now is, this email address is associated with the identity I’ve created for myself. In a way, my 'secret' searcher identity is pretty much out there and in your face. More than a few of the new sites I’ve been playing with require registration, and I’m not that comfortable with having my search traced back to this blog or some of my profiles.

Also you should be aware that the newer generations of spiders that are indexing social networking sites are pulling email accounts and any associated first and last names with them.

So, I’d suggest if you’re doing any major searching, especially if you’ve got names to work with, do it from email and social networking accounts that you never associate with a forum, mailing list, blog or other site. Also I’d recommend not associating a real name, date of birth or location with it, as well as not using it for any type of correspondence. Use it as a registration only account. There are more than a few sites out there that let people know when someone has looked at their profile.

I’ve got the adoptee me on Myspace, and classmates, and other sites, but I’ve also got the fake me for when I’m searching for family.

And yeah, don’t think the absurdity of a post on protecting your own privacy while cyber stalking family has escaped me. Of course it’s absurd. It’s adoption.

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