On Christmas Eve, when no one was watching, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced that her administration will introduce legislation next year to create an electronic version of the “Do Not Call” registry.
In a press release she said, “Anyone who goes to WhitePages.com or 411.com will find personal information published that many people may want protected. With a few clicks of the keyboard, anyone can find the age and gender of a person, where they live, where they work, birthdates and other identifying information. This is a safety and security issue – particularly for our elderly citizens who too often are targeted by scam artists and other opportunists.”
While well-intentioned I hate to inform the governor that the information she seeks to have banished from the Internet already exists in other places, such as phone books, voter registration cards, dog licenses, etc.
For example, say you have an unlisted phone number. If I know what town you live in I can go down to town hall and ask to see your voter registration card, which asks for your phone number. Nine times out of 10 your unlisted home phone number will be on your voter registration card. And 10 times out of 10 if you own a dog, you want it returned, so you list your unlisted home phone or cellphone number on your dog license.
Many newsrooms save old telephone books. Why? Because most people list their phone numbers before they decide they want to have them unlisted.
In addition most of the Internet sites which list phone numbers and addresses have an opt out function on their pages, in case someone decides to remove their listed number. Click here to read the Whitepages.com opt out page.
In the press release, “The Governor noted that these sites are breaking no law by gathering and disseminating this information, yet many people may be unaware that their personal information is so widely available.”
To which, I have to ask: Who hasn’t Googled their name? In fact, it’s easy to find not only your current address and phone number, but your past addresses and phone numbers. Heck, you may even be able to find a picture of your house online, if your town has recently gone through a property revaluation.
The bottom line is this information is out there and with or without the Internet it isn’t going away. Sure the Internet may have made it easier to find some of this information, but its information that’s always been there. Search engines like Zaba Search (my favorite for finding phone numbers) just aggregated data that’s already in the public domain.
If you’re worried about the poor old lady who may be scammed by an Internet-savvy youth, then there are laws that govern solicitation and theft. Let’s not get carried away with regulating the Internet in the name of privacy because if we do, then we will lose much more than our privacy.