By Seana Sperling
We live in the “over the top,” Information age, where an Internet search of your name can reveal a plethora of personal information on websites like www.Mylife.com, www.Jigsaw.com, www.Redaris.com, www.Pipl.com, www.USSearch.com, www.123people.com, www.Intellius.com and even DEX online.
This Information can range from something as personal as your date of birth to your current address. Some sites may link to articles you have written or comments you have made in blog posts. So, what happens when the information is in fact Mis-information? (I have found three different ages listed under my name, unfamiliar photographs and unrelated Cloud links on one of these sites and it’s not like my name is Jane Smith. In fact there are very few Sperlings in Seattle.)
In the new millennium, identity thieves can post your personal information on assorted sites or comment in blogs under your name. (This is called E-personation.) They can also post mis-information designed to vilify you. After all, anyone can be anyone online.
Evidently the folks managing these information-gathering sites have no qualms about collecting and distributing your personal information. Nor do they seem to care whether or not the information is accurate. It seems that they are enabling libel. (It’s possible that some of these companies are Fusion Centers contracting for Intelligence agencies or Corporate America.) Just because they can access your information gives them no right to publish it. I think it violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
If you try to get the sites to remove your personal information, you may find it’s not so easy. Their response to your request may be a request for a long list of information that you need to provide to them to prove your identity (www.123people.com) or they ask you to log into your account (which you never set up in the first place and do not have the password or login information for). You are communicating with the avatar of Corporate America and they can simply tell you that they cannot help you.
Corporate America has seized control over one of the most dominant forms of communication of our time—the Internet. They can now control our privacy and can toy with our reputations. Even though the corporations may not post the libel, they enable it since no one has to prove who they are to set up accounts and post information on these sites. A vengeance stalker can post all sorts of your personal information online and then recruit other stalkers with a sob story or slander that they post on their own web page or a common message board. Another negative factor is that, if a prospective employer does an Internet search of your name and finds something irregular then chances are they will not hire you and will not tell you the reason.
There is a larger threat however. The small information gathering sites are sustained by mega-corporations. Everyone watched silently as Faith-based Clear Channel began buying up the airwaves (radio, television, Internet). Then they saturated cities with cheap or even free cell phones and Internet service. Clear Channel is one example of a mega-corporation monopolizing the media and your information. You can be tracked on and offline with the GPS in your phone. Then your whereabouts can be tweeted, texted or posted online.
Would the Witness Protection Program even be viable in today’s Information Age? You are constantly being tracked online and people know when you move and where you move to by something as simple as the changes in the phone book. (Even when you have requested your number and address to be unlisted, that is only for one phone book and there are a variety of them out there. I found my name, full address and phone number in DEX online even though it did not appear in another phone book.)
Just like the Do Not Call List, that restricts telephone soliciting, we should have something like that for these information collection sites, such as a, “Do Not Post My Information List.” Of course I believe in Freedom of speech, but I think that the profiteers of citizen’s personal information should be regulated, as it seems to violate the fourth amendment.
Why make it easy for vengeance stalkers and Internet Trolls to find their prey or for corporations to invade someone’s privacy to market to them? Some may say, “That’s progress and you can’t fight it.” Why not? If something is clearly wrong, a violation of our privacy, of course we should say something. For too long people have been apathetic. Others might say, “I have nothing to hide. What have you got to hide?” Nothing, but I would like to retain a certain amount of personal space, without Corporate America knowing my every move.
(See the Cyberbullying and Harassment page to see what the Information Bullies are capable of.)