The personal information you provide and associate with your pets should be considered as part of your overall strategy to protect your personal information. Pet owners know that there are many entities and businesses that gather information about your pets and you during the course of doing business. If/when that information is compromised, then it could easily lead to the disclosure of information you did not want leaked. We take our pets to the veterinarian, groomer, and many municipalities require us to register our pets with the county or city where we live. All of these places want to know who we are and where we live, details about our pet, and contact information for the pet owner. Pet stores also offer loyalty programs and discounts for pet owners who sign up for frequent buyer cards in exchange personal information. Just like any other aspect of your life, a privacy advocate needs to consider how to handle the affairs related to their furry friends and how those may impact privacy concerns.
Your city or county may require your pet be registered in order to verify it has the appropriate vaccinations. Pet licenses are a great way to issue disinformation. Licenses can usually be obtained online, and paid for using private methods (gift cards, a secondary card in an alias name, Blur, or Privacy.com). The pet will be registered at your physical address, and I would use an alias name for yourself when asked. Be conscious of the email and phone number you provide during the registration and use something that you can receive communications on, but does not tie too closely with your real name. Using a profile on Sudo would be a great scenario for this. Licensing databases are likely shared and sold to third parties, so be aware that whatever information you share could find its way into the wild.
Retailers / Groomers
A huge opportunity for disinformation here! Sign up for loyalty and discount cards at your local pet stores when you have the opportunity. Use name, address, and phone number disinformation for all of these because the data will be distributed all over the place. Cash purchases are the best option if you don’t want to have a record of your purchases on your credit card. Prepaid cards are also a good option here. For grooming services, all that you should need to disclose is a phone number where you can be reached. Again, using one of your Sudo profiles or another VoIP number is a great scenario for this.
Your vet should know your real name because you may need to show ID (passport card) in order to obtain prescription medication for your pet. I see no scenario where your vet would need to have a physical address on file for you though. Use a P.O. Box, CRMA, or even a work address so that you can keep your physical address private. Cash and other private payment methods will be accepted at most vet offices. The phone number again should be one where you can receive a call, but obviously we want to use a number that doesn’t compromise our personal information.
It’s a good idea to also keep a copy of all of your pet’s vaccination records with you. I scan a copy and keep them backed up along with other important documents. These records have the name of your veterinarian office along with the personal information you have provided the vet. They may be used to verify that you are the owner of your pet, and the records are also needed when you board your pet at a boarding facility.
In my experience these database of customer information are often shared and you will receive marketing material to whatever address you provide. Your vet will implant the microchip obviously, and when you are asked for information to be associated with it, I would be consistent and share the same data that your vet has on file for you. There should be no need for a physical address if you have a good contact phone number on file with the company who administers the microchip data. If your pet gets lost and the implanted chip is the only link to finding you, make sure it’s a good number where you can be reached. Also be sure to update that information if your number changes. VoIp numbers work well for this. The initial payment for the microchip can be made through your vet and any ongoing payments that may be required can usually be done online.
Your pet should have a tag on its collar with the pet’s name and and a contact number to call if it is found. Many people also include a physical address, but for our purposes I do not think this is necessary. As long as the number is reliable, someone can reunite you with your lost friend.
This should go without saying for this audience, but be mindful about the photos you take of your pet. Pets are photographed often and those images are distributed via text message, and on social media. Get in the habit of scrutinizing those photos before sending them out. Does the photo compromise your location or details about you personally in any way. Check the background of your photos for clues about where the photo was taken; maybe a street sign, license plate, address, or landmark that you don’t want to share. Also be aware of metadata associated with your photos. Could someone analyze that photo and find that the device’s location data was turned on when the photo was taken? Consider scrubbing metadata from old photos of your pet before sharing them to be sure you aren’t leaking GPS location embedded in your photos and videos.
In today’s society, more and more pets have their own social media accounts. Can you guess whether or not I think this is a good idea? Enough said.