By Lonnie Cruse
Anyone old enough to remember that song about Barney Google? Let's see a show of hands. Okay, now that we know who's who, let's move on to my post of the day. And I'm afraid it's a bit of a serious nature, despite this lame joke.
We all get "those" emails. Emails from friends with jokes or warnings or whatever, forwarded across the entire universe. Emails that make us laugh or make us worry or my personal fave, those that come with a promise and a threat. Promising to make you rich, healthy, and loved if you forward it within 10 seconds to everyone you know, but you're dead by dark if you don't. Those kind make us want to delete the friend along with the email. But I got one over last weekend that was unsettling to me because it contains very real information about a search site, and I'm sharing with you because you might want to check it out as well.
A friend sent me an email claiming that the Google search engine website now includes a phone directory with a zillion real names and phone numbers. She swore it wasn't a fake and she's one of the most sensible people I know, so I went to Google and checked. I typed in my phone number (with area code) in the "search" box and up popped my darling hubby's name along with our home address and phone number. And, bless their little hearts, the thorough folks who compiled this directory included a map straight to my house! Um, no, thank you!
I clicked on our name, and when it came up on the screen there was a place to click to remove our name and records from the site. It takes forty-eight hours to remove it. And, I was to be aware that once my personal information was removed, it could not be put back. Well, DUH!
I often use Google to research subjects for my writing, like medical or forensic information, but I certainly don't want anyone Googling my private information to find out where I live. According to the disclaimer on this site, Google does NOT collect the names and phone numbers listed but a third party collects this information from phone directories and other public information available on the web. Well, let me just say once again, thank you very much, whoever you are. NOT!
The Internet is a wonderful way to "visit" the rest of the world if we can't afford to fly there. A place to order the varied and wonderful products we might not be able to buy in our own neighborhood. And it gives us opportunites to meet people from all over the world and get to know them. And to keep in touch daily with friends and family who live far away. Personally, I came to the Internet when my oldest sister, struggling with cancer that started in the roof of her mouth could no longer speak easily or be understood. Unable to communicate with her by phone (or in person, as we lived over 2,000 miles away from each other) I signed up for the Internet and a friend taught me how to email her. I will always be grateful for that.
But as we all know, the Internet can be a dangerous place too, so most of us go to great lengths to keep our important information private either by not listing it at all (phone number, home address, etc.) or at the very least, secure, by using secure sites when listing such information as bank account or credit card numbers.
Authors are generally very careful about our private information, using websites or discussion lists or email to interact with readers/fans. We can be contacted through those means, answer questions, chat, and/or sell autographed copies of our books (using a P. O. box rather than our home addy) and no problem. But remember, the term fan is derived from fanatic, and sometimes fans cross the line, and the author (or other public person) is suddenly scrambling to protect her/his privacy, not to mention safety. While I didn't mind having my information listed in our local phone directory (which obviously must now be removed as well) I was not thrilled to find my information listed on a public website that anyone in the world can access without my knowledge or permission. I have requested it be removed. You may (or may not) wish to do the same.