Privacy | Your Digital Footprint on the Web

March 20, 2012

Yours truly runs an ego surf regularly just to see what’s on the web that contains or is attached to my name.  And while the majority was published with my knowledge and consent, today I found something that was neither.  It was pretty coincidental too, considering minutes before I had just read a story regarding job applicants having to hand over the username and passwords of their social networking accounts  in order to be considered.

Regardless of where you come down on personal privacy, the fact remains that the Internet has made digging up personal information that much easier for anyone who wants to take a look.  And by the way, this includes ID thieves and others with unknown agendas, such as stalkers.  It is simpy breathtaking to behold the amount of data that can be culled from running a simple search on one’s name.  And I’m not talking about any comments that you may have left in a moment of temporary rantitude while logged into your social networking profile on a page with comments set to public viewing rather than private.

The site in question contained not only a full dossier containing my name and age, but also a listing of every city I have ever lived in, the address, the duration, family members, their ages and their locations, to name just a few bits allegedly pulled from public records. Honestly, I half-expected to see a photo of what I deposited into the toilet this morning after breakfast.

How much easier can purveyors of sensitive data make it for criminals to track you down and otherwise utilize the information they found on the web to perpetrate some kind of scam? Call me paranoid, but if I wanted the world to know this level of personal data, then I would have disclosed it myself.  But status quo is that consumer consent is not necessary.  Hey, the info is supposedly pulled from the public record, therefore you don’t have a say in what someone else publishes to the web about you because clearly, you wouldn’t have had that info in the public record in the first place, right?

Wrong.

Before the Internet, in order to track down a personal history such as the listing of cities someone has been a resident of,  for example, you had to make a trip to the local government office.  You also had to interact with a live person and sign various forms which documented your name, thereby, leaving a paper trail.  It kept any casual nosy barker honest, for the most part, and, otherwise limited the invasion of privacy to private investigators and law enforcement personnel.  But today, anyone with an Internet connection can crawl up your anal opening and inspect what’s there whether you consent or not.

This is primarily due to two factors. (1) Right to privacy laws have not kept pace with technology, and, (2) The system is opt-out by default, instead of opt-in.   In an opt-out system, it is assumed that you are OK with YouBetchaWe’reLegit background checker publishing your dossier whether you assent or not.  And therein lies the rub.  Opt-out doesn’t make life any easier for anyone except the douchebags trying to make a buck on selling your information. 

An opt-in system, on the other hand, is simply that.  Nothing is published about you -in public record or not- without your specific permission.  You must contact the purveyor of information and let them know you want your data published.  This is more in line with how it should be in the U.S.  As is, only the EU has such a strong consumer protection law, but then again, the elected reps of the various countries comprising the EU aren’t  the bought-and-paid for whores owned 100% by Big Biz like the American Congress is.

What You Can Do

Unless and until the U.S. passes strong consumer protection laws at the national level (don’t hold your breath) you can attempt to limit what’s available on the web about you.  However, I must caution that this endeavor eventually becomes a game of whack-a-mole.  You no sooner notify one asshole that you want your information deleted, and before long, here comes another selling even more.  Depending on your level of tenacity, this may or may not be a game changer.

Personally, I like to run a search every so often, and, depending on how pissed off I get about it, I will scan through the Privacy Policy of the offending site and ascertain how to go about having my data deleted.  Sometimes it’s as simple as calling an 800 number.   Other times, the company will have you jump through numerous hoops, giving you a time frame that it expects to have the data scrubbed.  For anyone who has ever conducted his own credit cleanup with the credit reporting agencies, this is where the whack-a-mole characterization comes in.

But don’t let the hoop jumping deter you as this is precisely what the information purveyors want.  If enough consumers complain and opt-out, sooner or later, something has got to give.  You just have to be persistent.  And, really, in the final analysis, is it really worth your reputation to throw up your hands in frustration and give up so easily?  In my opinion, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to believe you are beaten without even attempting to push back.

You should also check with the FTC as well as your state’s privacy laws for more information. Please note that some states like Calfornia have stronger consumer protection laws in place while others rely on the business-friendly federal law.  California residents click here for the office of privacy protection.

©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Another Credit Bureau to Screw You

January 15, 2010

Ever hear of L2C, Inc.? Me neither. Evidently, the outfit is a little known privately held credit bureau and has been around peddling confidential consumer data since the year 2000, or so claims BusinessWeek. If I sound a little angry, you will have to excuse me because I have nothing but contempt for credit bureaus. They epitomize everything that is so very wrong with the business of brokering private data for profit to the ever intrusive establishment.

As anyone who has attempted credit repair can attest, the process is time consuming, tedious and exasperated by credit bureau ineptitude.  It is not unusual to have to keep checking to ensure that the corrections you want on file have actually been implemented. Sisyphus has nothing on consumers who attempt credit repair.

These companies are also impossible to work with in simply obtaining a copy of your own file, particularly if you have a mailing address that is different from your residential address. The FCRA is supposed to keep the credit bureaus under control and also to make them consumer friendly so that you can obtain your credit history file in a timely manner, but there is no recourse if a bureau simply refuses to hand over your file to you.  Case in point:  I have spent the past year trying to gain access to my file from TransUnion.  I have jumped through each and every one of their hoops to prove my identity, and still, after multiple copies of multiple documents submitted multiple times, the credit bureau still won’t send my file.

Sure, a complaint can be filed with the FTC, and that may make you feel slightly better, but don’t count on anything substantial occurring on your behalf because the FTC is as useless as any other bloated, corporate lapdog, anti-consumer,  federal agency.  But let’s return to the subject.

Oh the Irony

I became aware of L2C a few days ago when the company was mentioned in the WSJ regarding paycheck peeks. Allow me to interject here the irony of credit bureaus priding themselves on weeding out undesirable consumers they deem unworthy of a credit line at the same time the banksters lobbied and paid their Congressional whores for the repeal of the  Glass-Steagall Act, which was passed back in 1933 as a direct result of the first Great Depression. It took eleven attempts by Congress, but the twelfth was the clincher.  And here we are, ten years later, and, the banksters are reaping exactly what they have sown.

Be careful not to step in the great, steaming pile of sardonicism as you consider that for every deadbeat debtor there exists an even bigger deadbeat creditor.  Let’s be clear:  Debtors complicate their own lives if they don’t pay their bills.  Creditors FUBAR the entire global economy.

AIG et al. wanted to be able to extend credit to everyone and his dog without any restrictions or oversight whatsoever, and, with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, they got precisely what they wanted, but now, you see, the double-digit unemployment on Main Street is the exclusive fault of debtors because they have overextended themselves into foreclosure, or so sayeth Wall Street and their bobbleheaded fanbois.

And hey, really, what better way is there to screw over consumers even moreso then the further intrusion into your life and privacy with yet another confidential consumer data collector that is just as bumbling, incompetent and even more consumer averse than the others?  Surely, Americans won’t mind yet another obstructionist bureaucracy that holds the keys to their lives?

Obtaining Your File

But perhaps I am being unfair. After all, this was just my initial impression of L2C and I hadn’t even dealt with them yet. So I decided to contact the company on their toll-free line since their website conveniently does not include any information whatsoever as to how a consumer may obtain a copy of his file. At least the other three national credit bureaus make it easy to order a copy directly from their company websites, but not L2C.  It’s like L2C doesn’t even want you to know that you have the right to see what information about you they’re selling.

To further underscore L2C’s antipathy towards consumers, when writing this piece, I was prohibited from posting a hyperlink to any portion of the company’s website because there is a blurb in its Terms of Service regarding having to obtain specific written permission first. In the event permission was granted, it would be limited and only if the link did not portray the company in a negative light. Translation: Scraping, bowing and groveling for approval, and if granted, sugar-coating only when linking to the name L2C or else.

I find it exceptionally difficult not to ridicule companies like L2C.   They are so intolerant of anything that does not worship and throw roses at its brand name that they have their legal counsel draft website terms and conditions in an attempt to quash by decree any criticism of the company.  It is precisely because of companies with this kind of feudal overlord mentality that the EFF exists.

The chucklehead I spoke with was completely and utterly aghast when I inquired as to how to go about obtaining a copy of my file. She just could not wrap her tiny little mind around why I would want it and told me so.  Imagine that, dear reader – Asking for a copy of your confidential credit history is considered a highly unusual request by the L2C people!

Why in the world would you EVER want to know what kind of sensitive data with your name and national ID number federal barcode generational wealth transfer number social security number is available on corporately owned, and probably unsecured servers that contain every major commercial transaction you have ever been involved with that is bought and sold by creditors on a regular basis with or without your consent, and, influences every facet of your life from renting an apartment or buying a home to securing gainful employment?

Seriously, I just cannot fathom as to why that file would be so important.  Won’t someone please explain to the bumpkins answering the phones at L2C?

I resisted the impulse to reach through the phone and bitch slap the rep, and instead, calmly explained to her that I simply wanted a copy of my information in L2C’s possession. She then read some BS script to me about how IF anything existed in their files then it would be mailed to me within “14 days,” but if there was nothing, then I would not receive any kind of notification. However, I could request in writing and send $10.00 for a copy of a report that may or may not exist. In either case, it would have to be done in writing and either way, L2C could not confirm or deny a file even exists.

So, let’s recap here – a file in L2C’s possession containing my confidential credit history may or may not exist, but they are not able to confirm or deny said existence. And, if I want a copy of this file, then I’d have to cough up ten bucks for the privilege. No mention, however, as to whether that money would be refunded in the event L2C decides the file does not exist. Isn’t that just brilliant?

Despite the fact that L2C apparently pats itself on the back as being FCRA and ECOA-compliant, I feel a letter is in order reminding them as to exactly what their legal obligations are because the only thing I enjoy more than responding to a nastigram is writing one.

©2010 Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™ with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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