Your best take: Internet stalking

In our "letter of the day," a Salon reader proves just how much private information is available on the Web

Salon Staff
January 20, 2011 2:20AM (UTC)

Ada Calhoun's fascinating meditation on Internet stalking generated positive feedback from our readers ("The best thing I have read here in a while," one person posted), as well as skepticism. Responding to the headline of the story -- "I can find out so much about you" -- reader Jared2 wrote, "I bet you can't. No Facebook, no Twitter, no blog, no website, never posted anything under my real name. I value my privacy." 

This prompted the following retort from Mzrt01, who wins the honor of "letter of the day":


Views such as yours are characteristic of the type of person that simply must be "shown" -- if you are to convince them that their over inflated sense of anonymity on the internet is nothing but a sad delusion.

Without revealing anything that could be used to identify you personally, I was able to (within 5-10 minutes) learn a fair bit about you, including: You live in Long Island (but were born in Canada), you've owned a Prius, you have a B.A, M.S and M.L.I.S, you are an atheist of the Richard Dawkins variety (as am I), you were born on November 30th, etc, etc.

And this is 5-10 minutes as I said. Imagine what I might find out about you in a span of 48 hours after following every minuscule detail. I could meticulously and systematically compile a very large and very revealing profile of you using random tidbits of information that either you left behind, or someone left for you.

And if I couldn't obtain, say an e-mail address (which would serve as the pièce de résistance because of it's unique ability to be so easily compromised) in an unobtrusive manner I could certainly resort to dirtier practices, which might include exploiting a security flaw in one of the sites that you've registered on. And none of this couldn't be done in a weekend by anyone both capable and motivated enough.

Don't fool yourself. Facebook and Twitter are not the enemy. You don't have any privacy with or without them. If someone wants your information badly enough and they have the means to acquire it -- there's nothing you can do about it.

Salon Staff

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