Friday, January 18, 2008

Goo goo googly eyes???

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.


Anonymous said...

This is really kind of old news. The information on Google is something that has always been available in libraries ever since phones became commonplace enough to need directories. Marketing agencies had been exploiting this resources for decades before Google came along. Granted, Google makes it all a bit easier, but it's not really any new kind of invasion of privacy. The fact that we can remove our names from the list is nice enough, but I won't be surprised when the list gets "renewed" and removed names are put back in.
I get emails every now and then from friends and family, filled with breathless panic about how the internet is robbing us all of our imagined privacy, but I think if we are going to use a tool of our age, we must accept some of the (slight) risks that come with it. Granted, I can find more concentration by living under a rock, but I won't find much of life there.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I suppose you're right, Paul, and it will be interesting to see how the Internet affects our lives in the next ten years or so. Thanks for stopping by.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

It is old news and why we have been unlisted with the phone companies for years. Having had the expereince of an irate sel published author showing up at my home door thanks to getting my address off the internet and threatening me with a weapon, I don't think the risk is slight at all.

Anonymous said...

I got this email a while back, but didn't do anything about it at the time. I figured it is public domain, so what ya gonna do?

Anyhoo, I had my and my mom's info removed from Google a couple of days ago and just now checked to see if it was gone. The info was gone, but during my search for myself I found a link to a Pipl page that had my address and phone number on it. So, I think it's a losing battle. There are far too many search sites with the info plastered there.