Invasion of Privacy

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Feb 28, 2011 in , , , | No Comments

As a student and job seeker, you must know what is easily available to everyone.

You may be surprised to know that your age, address, former names, former employers, county records, arrest record, marriages, divorces, phone numbers, aliases, online activity–and much more–are free to anyone. Not only that, some of the information is incorrect, and yours could be lumped together with a person that has the same name.

It Can Hurt

Basically, all of that information online is an invasion of your personal privacy, which can hurt your chances of being hired, accepted into a college, or into internships or volunteer opportunities.

Recently, on the local news, a college student was declined a job he had successfully interviewed for and couldn’t believe the reason why he was turned down. He was mistaken for someone with the exact first and last names with a rap sheet as long as his arm. Not only that, the person he was mistaken for was currently serving time in jail. Determined to make things right, the student followed the trail and proved to the employer (and the local news reporter) who he really was, but it took a lot of work.

This “misunderstanding” could have been avoided had the person verifying the student’s background used a middle name. Considering the seriousness of the data pulled up on the other man, a recheck should have been in order, but sadly wasn’t done.

Other big mistakes: a bank might ask a reporting agency to verify credit history on you, the problem is, they’ve pulled up someone’s history with the same name, or the reverse could happen too. If they verified Social Security numbers, that wouldn’t take place.

How do you protect yourself?

Be sure to type in your name (in various ways: with or without your middle name for example) to see what comes up on agencies sites that list this information free (and for sale), such as: Intelius, U.S. Search, White Pages and In order to have personal information removed, you must follow their guidelines, each is different. Intelius requires you fax them a copy of your drivers license, while requires you e-mail date of birth, city and state and U.S. Search lets you get a free lock service with terms on their website. Having to fork over more personal information to them makes me wonder what they do with that. But, contacting them won’t fully resolve the problem.

Do Opt Out

Now you must notify those that provide this information to the agencies: cable, credit card, phone, utility companies, and others, that have your personal information on file. You’ll have to “opt out” of having personal information provided, or sold, to third parties. And even sending in a warranty card for a recent purchase might put your personal information online, so do limit what you include on those warranty cards. Note at the bottom of the warranty card a box to check “opt out”, this will hopefully keep what little information you provide from being sold to a third party.

More than an Online Problem

Posting personal information online should be done with a great deal of caution. When filling out job applications, know where your information is really going. Ads without company names are your first clue. Even so, legitimate names can be used as part of a scam. Answering ads that want you to give a Social Security number can be scams–don’t post it online.

And what about where you live, do you have a secure mail box with a lock? If not, it’s common to have mail stolen. And that new roommate you know little about could take your credit cards, or other I.D., always keep them on you, or locked up in a safe place. Never put these items in your car, they could be stolen if your car is broken into, or when you have work done at the local mechanics. You can never be too careful, but you can be careless, or too trusting.

Do More to Protect Yourself

One site, World Privacy Forum, gives helpful tips to protect personal information. Log on to their site for more about how to protect yourself,

Contact your representatives in Washington, D.C., let them know you are wasting time and money trying to protect yourself, demand change. In some states, laws against reporting agencies are being considered, some are already in place.

Check every few months sites that held your information to see if it has been reinstated. Unfortunately, it’s common practice to find your privacy invaded further with more postings by these websites.

Intelius-fax 425-974-6194                                     U.S. Search-phone 1-800-877-3272/ 1-800-505-7154/e-mail                  White Pages:

©2011 Judy Anne Cavey, who resides in the S.F. Bay Area of California, is a credentialed, certified, higher education instructor who taught Work Experience/Cooperative Education and ESL at three community colleges. She is also a freelance writer and grant writer currently authoring a textbook, has designed other learning programs, and worked with several nonprofits. Her Edublog, “Work Experience”, is a not-for-profit endeavor designed to assist job seekers of all ages.