Monday, September 24, 2007

Personal Info on Your Digital Double

There is an interesting company out of Bellevue, WA that showcases both the power and the danger of internet data retrieval. I have stated this before and will focus on it again and again. The web is a perpetual aggregation tool that gathers more information on who we are every moment of every day. The power is in the ability to access and use that information. The danger to the individual is the ease of access that everyone has to that data and the perception that people will draw from information that is inaccurate, or perhaps accurate but personal and private.

Vanity searches are fairly common place, but how many times have you looked into yourself online. I mean, done a background check as if you were hiring yourself to care for the house or the kids.

A company called Intellius, which refers to itself as "the world's largest and most accurate public records source" will do this for you. For simplicity sake, let’s just do a people search, which for this company includes “current phone number, address history, age, birthdates, household members and more...”

I did one on myself and here is what I found out for free.

What I will tell you is that having something that returns your age to you is a little disconcerting. They are correct. They give information on family, that I will say is partially correct, but also incomplete and only close on one count. As for where I have lived…. Yes, yes, no and yes.

Searching is always more effective through refinement and repetition. It also helps if you already have tangential information. For instance, my mom, god rest her soul, is alive and well and 67 years of age in this database. If asked, I couldn't have told you her former street address accept for a helpful small anomaly. She didn't have a middle name. She gave herself one eventually, but legally did not have one. Because of this, her name, likely culled from someones customer list, came up as Mary Sewinsor Fry. That's when I recalled she used to live at SE Winsor street.

The reason I looked at the site was that a friend (with a reasonably common name) related a story of she discovered why she continued to get persistent calls on debt payments for purchases she did not make. In using this site, she discovered that a man with her same last name had shared her residential address. They were not related, but someone, somewhere, made the inaccurate connection between the two.

So was a site like Intellius a good or a bad thing here? Some company somewhere incorrectly drew their own data connection that resulted in the harassing calls. However, if not for this site, she would not have found out what that connection was.

What other things can you learn? What role would accuracy play in any resultant action?

Well for fifty bucks…

The lesson of the day, and every day on the internet is this. Be aware of what is out there and how it might relate to you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Their web page says that they get the info from public records such as utility, county, property, business records & change of address records. What freaked me out is that I have an unlisted phone and they had it. Now I am thinking of nuking the phone, just using my cell and never giving that number out.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...