I Just Want My Privacy:
Speaking Out Against Online Information Brokers


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October 11, 2010

Dear Privacy Advocate,

There are three groups of people concerned about internet privacy:

  1. Those who are opposed to an invasion of privacy just on principle;
  2. Those who wish to protect victims of domestic violence;
  3. Other vulnerable groups: the visually impaired, the elderly, the computer illiterate.

As a member of the first group, I do not want strangers knowing I visit on-line Sexual Abuse Survivors internet sites.  Religious, Medical, Addiction, and Psychiatric internet message boards should be private and off-limits to all data collection technology.  They are not.

As a member of the second group, I was shocked and horrified to find my name, address, and UNLISTED phone number available on numerous Reverse Phone Directory websites, without my permission or knowledge.  I do not have internet at home.  I found out about it at the public library.  One site even had a map of my location and a photo of the front of my property.  It is like a sick invitation to my Ex-boyfriend to come find me!  My Ex-boyfriend had a pair of hand-cuffs and a police billy-club.  He told me he knew it was illegal for him to have them.  He bragged about stalking Ex-girlfriends, even years after they broke up with him.  He told me he had police officer friends who’d look up motor vehicle records to help him find his Ex-girlfriends.  The only act of violence he did to me was to spill extremely hot coffee on my lap, causing first degree burns.  He laughed hysterically when he did it.  His abuse was more psychological.  He told me he’d track me down, and I’ve lived in fear for years of seeing him on my doorstep.  I moved to another state and did everything the police suggested.  I’m still afraid of that man, and the last thing I’d do is volunteer information that would help him find me.  Putting my name, address, phone number, and map to my house on the internet is the height of callous disregard for my safety.  How many domestic violence victims are endangered by the data about them on the internet?  Gathered and disseminated without their permission.  It’s callous and cruel.

I am also visually impaired and computer illiterate.  The task of getting reverse phone directories (dozens?) and other data bases to purge me from their records is impossible.  Not just difficult: impossible. 

HERE IS A PARTIAL LIST OF PEOPLE WHO CANNOT NAVIGATE THE INTERNET WELL ENOUGH TO PROTECT THEIR PRIVACY:

  • The elderly
  • The computer illiterate
  • The illiterate
  • The visually impaired
  • The blind
  • The mentally ill
  • The mentally retarded
  • The brain injured.

Add to that victims of domestic violence, and we have tens or hundreds of thousands of citizens who are at risk from the lack of internet privacy.  The only way to protect these vulnerable people is to require all companies and individuals to have unambiguous consent from a person BEFORE sharing unlisted phone numbers or medical or psychiatric (and other) information about that person on the internet.

The question we should be asking is: Is it more important to protect the vulnerable or to allow unrestricted flow of information?  We require health care providers to protect our medical records.  We should do as much to protect victims of domestic violence.  Nobody needs my unlisted phone number and directions to my house for commerce to run smoothly, or to maintain democracy in the free world.  

I just want my privacy.  That is all.

Signed,  

Annie Anonymous



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