It is well known that in this day and age, many of our lives are quite public (take this blog for example) Although this blog is not traceable by my name...I don't think, I've been thinking about this for a few days now, and doing some searches, and I'm surprised by what I've found.
Firstly, my back story on this whole subject:
On Monday I was walking down the hall in the concourse level where I work. I was approached by a very intense man, who followed me into a coffee shop and continued to hound me for my phone number. Naturally, I refused as I had no idea who this person was, and to be honest, I was feeling very uncomfortable by his forward nature.
I explained as nicely as I could that I don't give out my number to people I don't know, which seemed to set him off. He became agitated, complaining that this was "one of the problems with the world" and that "how are people supposed to get to know each other if they don't exchange numbers and talk to one another?"
Ok, point taken, however if a random stranger follows me into a shop, and then puts me down continually with means of intimidation, and then gets irritated with me over my irritation with him, I'm not going to hand over my phone number. Any answer or reason I gave him, he countered with more and more unacceptable behavior. Eventually thrusting a piece of paper into my hand stating, "this is paper, it is for writing on, write down your number" I continued to refuse.
I told him that if he is honestly a good person just trying to get to know someone, he'd respect their wishes and accept an email address at the very most. He then told me that he is "illiterate" and that he "doesn't own a computer" and that if I gave him my email address I would likely have to wait an entire month before I'd hear from him... oh the tragedy. And how "pointless that would be" as he would then just "find out that I'm married or something". His tactics seemed to be prying into my personal life as best as he could, feel out my discomfort, and prey on it.
And prey on it he did. I must admit, it wasn't my finest moment, I became quite nervous and lost my strength and therefore didn't quite know what to do. At that point, I just wanted to shake off this insistent person and all of his intimidation techniques, so fine. I wrote down my email address (which does not contain my name so I felt it was safe enough) and went about my evening.
But to go back to my original thought: how personal are our personal lives anyway? As a test, I searched my email address in google, and was astounded at what I found. There is a website who's primary function is finding people through their email addresses. In 5 seconds flat, up popped my picture, my full name, my age and the city I live in. Now, if you choose to pay a $4 fee to this company, they will release all social networking sites I am part of, all blogs, photos, information...the list goes on.
But one doesn't even have to pay this fee. All I did in turn was google my name, which as I said, came up clear as day through the email address search. And there it all was. My full LinkedIn profile which contains all of my school and employment history. My Facebook profile and my MySpace profile (both of which are set to private) and messages that I had written on other's MySpace pages...right there on the google search page.
The lesson I have learned here is that no piece of information is sacred. Simply by giving my obtuse email address to a possible psychopath, he is able (within seconds) to find out enough information to track me down.
Think about that the next time you share anything with anyone.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Toll for French Elle