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Privacy, What Privacy?

Geoff and I were talking today about issues of privacy on the Internet, specifically how e-mails can be tracked down by bots and spiders, resulting tons of spam. Recently I deleted one of my aliases,, because I was getting 15-20 spam messages a day on that one. Click on the “Contact” link to the right, and notice the e-mail that appears in the “To” field. It’s up to you to make the changes to that address; I don’t link to my actual e-mail address, because if I did, it would be one more place for the spiders and crawlers to find said e-mail address, and start spamming me.

Keith also discovered that information on my domain was publically available via a Whois server. This included my home address and unlisted phone number! (Thanks, Keith.) Since then, I’ve edited this information out from my domain registration site. Within 24 hours, my address and phone number no longer appeared in the Whois db (although my work phone number appears there now).

So why wouldn’t that concern me? The answer is simple: I work in a publically funded institution, so even if I had no website, and no other e-mails than my work e-mail, if anyone on the planet wants to find me, they’ll find me. A quick Google search will turn up a number of University of Alberta web sites on which you will find my name, office phone number, and e-mail address.

Beyond that, who are we kidding when it comes to issues of privacy, such as our credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, bank accounts, passports, even our salaries? Consider each of these examples, and you know at least a number of other people have full access to any of them, and the information therein. Most often, none of it is abused – it’s an honour system. I don’t know how many times I’ve quoted my credit card number(s) over the phone, or sent them over the Internet, to order something.

It isn’t 1984 anymore, it’s way beyond. But since we’re all in it together, when it comes to worrying about privacy issues in 2002, I’ll take the Alfred E Neuman philosophy and live by it: What, Me Worry?

3 Responses to “Privacy, What Privacy?”

  1. jennifer Says:

    It is totally freaky. What Whois server did you use? I wanna check myself out. The spam on my gpu account is amazing these days – like 30-40 pieces a day.

  2. randy Says:

    Jen: Here it is:

  3. zuchris Says:

    Call me the paranoid freak, but step ONE before I even considered registering a URL was taking out a P.O. box for that express purpose – maintaining privacy. I realize that I can be tracked down via the P.O. box registration itself but anyone nutty enough to go through the hassle will find a way, if determined enough. Still, one must take precautions where prudent.

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