I have a confused approach to personal security online. I have never used my real name as my Facebook or Twitter handle. Yet, here I am updating a blog, I post photos daily on instagram and my employment details are searchable on Linked In etc..
I tend to think we can’t really win against the data-hungry technology that we need to use if we want to stay connected to others in the this age.
We all keep some things closer than others but it’s ultimately not up to us if some pieces of personal info get out.
I will conceal my children’s identity (there you go, apparently I have kids) but when they start to sign up for things themselves – hopefully not until they are teenagers – I am certain their online ‘privacy’ will all but disappear.
Anonymity is over.
As I drove around Sydney’s inner west this last week, doing what I regularly do, just taking photos of the best and most typical architecture for a Facebook album I keep, I came across a home that I really wanted to know more about. It’s mudbrick, largely concealed from the street, and, from what I have learned from books, from watching Grand Designs, and from living in the Blue Mountains, I could tell it was designed with passive solar principles.
So I googled the address and within two clicks I had found the name of the homeowner and his wife. Plus, I recognised the name from a local shopfront and so I also knew his profession.
(He had attended a local council meeting some years ago and those who spoke were listed in the meeting minutes, which in turn where uploaded to the council website. I’ll bet the council didn’t check that with anyone.)
My inquisitiveness may seem a little extreme.
I guess I have developed quite a fascination for homes and developments that are not just appropriate to their surroundings but actually enhance their communities, the kind of structures that are provocative, thoughtful or advanced and do the trailblazing for districts full of the tired sixties and seventies pragmatism that defines much of Sydney.
I am one of those people who read the small DA notices attached to buildings that are about to undergo some change. And, coincidentally, I read one recently that the owner of this mysterious mudbrick home was involved with.
So, thanks to one quick Google search, I knew the homeowner’s name, home, profession, his wife’s name, his business and a recent investment purchase he made.
It’s not information I can do anything with, but it will certainly make it awkward when I approach him to tell him how much I love his house.
A friend of mine has just started a new Facebook account, this time under a pseudonym as he says he was the victim of identity fraud.
That’s a frightening scenario but I wonder if there is hypocrisy in hiding your own details but benefitting when others don’t hide theirs.
If everyone had silent numbers there’d be no White Pages. Or, in modern terms, if everyone used pseudonyms there’d be no Google Plus.
In the name of fairness, I am hereby changing my Facebook name to my actual moniker.
Who knows what may come of such recklessness?