Social Media is a gold mine of information for anyone or any company looking to find information about you. Delete your social media accounts and never use them again. I know, easier said than done, right? Well, evaluating your presence on social media is a critical component of hiding from the Internet. Serious privacy advocates will shun social media like the plague. I believe the single biggest step you can take in the next five minutes toward a more private existence, would be to delete your social media accounts and not look back. To illustrate the amount of information Facebook collects and stores forever on each user, below is an excerpt from a recent BBC News article. The full article can be read here.
When Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist, requested to see his personal data that Facebook stored on its servers, he was mailed a CD-ROM containing a 1,222-page document.
That file, which would stretch nearly a quarter of a mile if printed and laid end-to-end, offered a glimpse into Facebook’s appetite for the private details of its 1.65 billion users.
The information included phone numbers and email addresses of Mr Schrems’ friends and family; a history of all the devices he used to log in to the service; all the events he had been invited to; everyone he had “friended” (and subsequently de-friended); and an archive of his private messages. It even included transcripts of messages he’d deleted.
But Mr Schrems, who says he only used Facebook occasionally over a three-year period, believes a sizable chunk of information was withheld from him.
Mr Schrems’ experience vividly illustrates the challenges we face in a digital age full of messaging apps, social networks, tailored search engines, email clients, and banking apps, all collecting personal data about us and storing it, somewhere, in the cloud.
Facebook & MySpace Users Beware
Recently, information came to light that defense attorneys are doing their research on officers who are testifying in trials related to gangs, drugs, weapons, and all violent crime. The research is being conducted through My Space and Facebook and every other social media you may have. Information on accounts you set up through My Space and Facebook are admissible in Court. Photos, simple quotes, mottos, and shared messaging on these sites can come back to bite you.
The link below is a New York Times article describing the recent experience of an NYPD officer who was cross-examined over material on his Facebook page. While the officer’s comment that the movie “Training Day” was a good lesson in police procedure was a joke, it did not play out that way in front of a jury. In a brilliant move, the defense attorney used the officer’s public postings to paint a picture of an overly aggressive officer willing to bend the rules. It was a simple gun case in which the defense was that the officer planted the gun. The defendant was acquitted. The Court’s ruling permitting the use of Facebook and My Space postings for cross examination and was completely legal.
For those of you who choose to use public forums on the Internet to express opinions, comment on your work, or share a few jokes with friends, be warned – the defense is watching and surfing the internet. It is quite likely the bad guys and the media are watching too, so be careful out there to keep you, your family and your agency’s integrity, safety and credibility intact. Full Article
Also see “How did Facebook get my number? And why is it giving my name out to strangers?” (LINK)
Facebook can be deleted by following these step by step instructions. http://deletefacebook.com
Spokeo.com is another website which represents an officer safety concern due to the ease in which personal information, such as your home address, can be obtained. Even if you have an unlisted number, your home address and a map to your house might be displayed.
Most of the information obtained from Spokeo.com appears to be from social network-ing sites and open-source databases. Privacy advocates strongly recommend that officers do not participate in social networking sites. If you have a social networking site; set your settings on PRIVATE, but keep in mind that even “private” profiles may still be viewable by a savvy online researcher. I also strongly recommend the use of P.O. Boxes and alternate mailing addresses when registering your information online. More on address protection here.
Spokeo.com has obtained access to the following sites and can display information you have posted and/or provided to them.
Amazon | Blockbuster | Facebook | MySpace | YouTube | Picasa | Pandora | PhotoBucket | Twitter | Flicker | LinkedIn | Yelp | Digg | Buzznet | Blogger | Bebo | and many more others!
Spokeo.com has established an immediate opt-out link. The removal process takes only a couple of moments, however, Spokeo.com limits the number of users you can remove based on the computer and network that is being used to remove profiles. I recommend that you use a computer that is not on a work network and an alias anonymous email to complete the opt-out. There is no charge for the removal. http://www.spokeo.com/optout
Other Major People Search Sites
Below is a partial list of some of the larger people search sites to target yourself for removal.
I would recommend that you scan some form of ID such as a state issued ID like a drivers license. Black out your picture and drivers number. Leaving your name, address and DOB visible. Any sites that requires such a thing will have an * after the address below.
Intelius.com* – Opt-out
Acxiom.com – Opt-out
MyLife.com – To request that a Member Profile or Public Profile be deleted, please contact Customer Care at 1-888-704-1900 or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Upon receipt of these requests, and confirmation that you are requesting that your own profile be removed, please allow MyLife 10 business days to complete this removal. It may be necessary to contact you to validate that you are the profile owner requesting the removal. This is to ensure the correct identity and profile ownership before completing these requests, and is for the protection of our users and their privacy.
Zabasearch.com* – Opt-Out
Spokeo.com – Opt-Out
BeenVerified.com – Opt-Out
Peekyou.com – Opt-Out
USSearch.com* – Opt-Out
PeopleFinders.com – Opt-Out
PeopleLookup.com* – In order for PeopleLookup to suppress or opt out your personal information from appearing on our Website, we need to verify your identity. To do this, we require faxed proof of identity. Proof of identity can be a state issued ID card or driver’s license. If you are faxing a copy of your driver’s license, we require that you cross out the photo and the driver’s license number. We only need to see the name, address and date of birth. We will only use this information to process your opt out request. Please fax to 425-974-6194 and allow 4 to 6 weeks to process your request.
PeopleSmart.com – Opt-Out
PrivateEye.com – Opt-Out
Whitepages.com – Opt-Out
USA-People-Search.com – Opt-Out
Spoke.com – Opt-Out
PeopleSearchNow.com – Opt-Out
DOBSearch.com* – In order for us to “opt out” your public information from being viewable on the public DOBsearch People Finder search results, we need to verify your identity and require faxed proof of identity. Proof of identity can be a state issued ID card or driver’s license, or notarized letter. If you are faxing a copy of your driver’s license, you may cross out the photo and the driver’s license number. We only need to see the name, address and date of birth. Please fax to 516-717-3017 and allow 4 to 6 weeks to completely process your request. It is your responsibility to ensure legibility of your document.
Radaris.com – Opt-Out.
*** Visit the Resources page of this site for all the additional opt-out links for many sites you will want to be removed from.