Last updated: April 14, 2011 - 8:51am
As more of our social lives, shopping sprees and dating misadventures take place online, we leave behind, purposely or not, a growing supply of personal information.
Marketers, employers, suitors and even thieves and stalkers are piecing together mosaics of who we are. Even when it is accurate, it may not present a pretty picture. For a glimpse of your mosaic, type your name into Spokeo.com. Prepare to see estimates of your age, home value, marital status, phone number and your home address, even a photo of your front door. Spokeo, one of several services like this online, will encourage you to pay $15 or more, for a full report with details on income, hobbies and online social networks. Snoops who take the time to troll further online may also find in blog posts or Facebook comments evidence of your political views, health challenges, office tribulations and party indiscretions, any of which could hurt your chances of admission to school, getting or keeping a job or landing a date. Many privacy experts worry that companies will use this data against users, perhaps to deny insurance coverage or assign a higher interest rate on a loan. The online aggregation of personal data is setting the stage for “a WikiLeaks for your life,” said Michael Fertik, the chief executive of Reputation.com, previously known as ReputationDefender, a company that charges to manage people’s online information and images. “The treasure trove of personal data about each of us is growing to unanticipated levels, and the leak of huge portions of those data can be personally devastating,” he said. If you want to try to manage privacy, the obvious first place to start is with the search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo, exactly where other people will most likely go to check you out.