Tuesday, September 16, 2008

None Of Your Business

Lately, I've been noticing certain carelessness around privacy that surprises me ... well, it actually annoys me. These are preventable lapses of privacy I would like to see corrected.

It started with my Wall Street Journal delivery. Nearly every day of the week I get someone else's WSJ. Let me explain. I guess the delivery person throws all the WSJ's for my neighborhood in their car, willy nilly, and as they drive by my house, they toss a random paper at my door.

That means, over a few weeks, I could have a pile of papers labeled with names and addresses of my neighbors who also subscribe to the WSJ, sitting in my recycle bin. Hell, I could start putting the names into a database, start sending them junk mail, love letters, start targeting them for my kid's fundraising efforts at school asking them to buy his chocolate bars, you name it.

And that means someone is getting MY paper every morning with my address spelled out, and I don't like that. Not at all. It's all about carelessness.

And I noticed a similar lapse the other day. I went in to my doctor's office for a check-up and was sent to the lab to have a blood test and about 3 names up on the list, I saw a friend (a neighbor's) name. She wasn't there, but I instantly gained private information about her -- that she had been here for a bloodtest -- and that's really none of my business. I started to think about a few things (also none of my business) -- was she sick, was she pregnant, was she ... I wanted to call her, but didn't dare, as I had no right to that information in the first place.

And I've seen it at big office buildings, at companies with less-than-brilliant security. They hand you a clip board to sign in. They call it the Visitor's Log. I've gone to meetings at a VC firm where I've seen the name of a friend/competitor a few lines above mine ... a friend/competitor who told me they weren't talking to those VC's. Again, a privacy lapse, easy to commit, but with possibly serious privacy issues. The firm should not be making that information public ... not good for them to broadcast who they are doing business with and not good for us as visitors ... but they aren't thinking about it carefully.

I find these real world random lapses of privacy ironic, in their quiet ineptness, with the ongoing loud noise everyone makes about Internet Privacy.