Protecting my privacy in the information age

Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.
~Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m a bit of a privacy nut when it comes to my personal information. My soon-to-be-deleted Facebook account is under my cat’s name and has my cat’s information on it, including her birthday. I regularly tell websites I was born on January 1st, 1900. And last week I got into a fight with AT&T regarding my refusal to give them my phone number in order for them to put me on the opt-out list for the phone book. I ended up giving them a fake name and a fake number. For the sheer amusement of it, I said my name was Jesse Custer (lead character from Garth Ennis’ “Preacher”).

Part of my problem with AT&T springs from past dealings with them and phone numbers. They request my phone number anytime I call them, even for something so simple as “Am I able to get broadband at my apartment?” The other part was also because they refused to tell me why they required my phone number. I got the same answer over and over again: “We need it in order to process your request.” Upon receiving the number ***-867-5309, and finally (and temporarily) adding me to the opt-out list, I discovered they “needed” it so they can call me once a year to “confirm [my] opt-out preference.” I call bullshit on that. I’ll leave out the story of trying to get in touch with someone higher up than the call center junkies.

I’m becoming more and more reluctant to hand out any little bit of information to anyone who doesn’t need it. Sure, a website needs my age to verify that I’m not stupid enough to actually claim to be under 13. They don’t, however, require my actual date of birth. And I’m willing to bet any intelligent 12-year-old can bypass it as easily as I add eighty-some-odd years to my age. Sure, they probably don’t bother hanging on to my birthdate, nor do they have some nefarious purpose in mind when collecting it. But nor am I willing to risk handing out my phone number or address to any schmuck with a piece of paper…this is why I get so little junk mail. I get enough junk phone calls as it is, and finally had to disable texting altogether on my phone to eliminate the spam texts I got almost constantly…many from AT&T themselves.

A friend has had issues in the past with signing up for things like a gym membership…they wanted his bank information so they could charge his account directly. He said no and finally had to pay for his gym membership entirely up front. I, frankly, would have done the same.

No one questions the need for these extraneous bits of information. And when someone does, they get hit with some stupid machine-like answer such as the one I got from the call center folks. “We need it because we need it” (effectively). In my opinion, if the process does not absolutely require the information (such as my address in the case of phone book opt-outs and broadband access inquiries) then first I’m going to tell you no, and if you jack with me long enough, you get a fake. And ***-867-5309 is a disabled number in many area codes.

I don’t trust companies and corporations to not sell my information. I don’t trust them to not use it to flood my mailbox and my phone with advertising. I don’t trust them to not get hacked (such as the Sony Playstation Network fiasco). The fewer times my information gets passed out, the better, as far as I’m concerned.


2 Responses to “Protecting my privacy in the information age”

  1. This is probably one of the few things that New Zealand managed to get right and not blindly follow the US lead on. In 1993 we enacted the Privacy Act, where amongst other things, selling names, address and phone numbers of your customers here is a sure way to get in legal hot water – as the local mail monopoly recently found out.

  2. I dont like how I can look my number up on whitepages, or anyones #, and get who all lives at the address and their ages. So now people can know that theres 2 females here, no male and one is older, me and my mom. They can get my address there and through the internet get directions and pull up a picture of my house and when I bought it, how much I paid, what its worth and how many beds and baths sq feet i have (thats wrongly reported though). There are crazzzy people out there and thats just not safe. Oh and they can also get when I paid my property taxes, Ive looked myself up on all this.

    Also when I call comcast with an issue, im sure this is true for other utilities, I have to give my info to get thru to a rep, then first thing they ask is this info again. I just gave it to your machine.

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