Data detox day one!


Yes! I think about this all the time. I’m also excited to really turn the spotlight on myself during this course, and in turn use that experience when I teach. There’s such a balance between convenience and concern that we wrestle with in this internet-driven time. Humans are endlessly fascinating. :joy:



Ugh, I hate it when data brokers say that. What might technically be “public data” is still not as easily findable when it’s not reposted by a highly ranked website.



In software development this is called “dogfooding”, as in eating your own dogfood, as in actually using the tools that you make or advocate for so that you can make sure that they work well. We’ll be doing a lot of dogfooding. :smile:. And we’ll also be talking about how to turn our experiences into useful feedback for developers and orgs that make resources, like EFF and Tactical Tech, in addition to using that experience to help our patron communities.



I did the first few days of the Data Detox and really didn’t find anything surprising (except that I didn’t have privacy controls set up on YouTube). Searching on my name revealed work-related stuff and I’m fine with that. I am continuing with the Data Detox and will post more on that later.



This was one of the few instances where I’ve been glad to have such a common name. When I searched in Firefox for my first and last names + Baltimore, I didn’t appear at all on the first page. (Lucky for me there’s a doctor in town with the same name, so she took up most of page 1.) I finally showed on pg. 3 as having signed up two years ago as a supporter of a local organization. I was part of the Spokeo list that came up in results - not first of the Baltimore Sara Browns, at least, but anyone who knows any of the other places I’ve lived would pick me out pretty quickly. (Incidentally, Spokeo had a relative listed to whom I’m not actually related.) I see their instructions on removing myself, but like someone else mentioned, I don’t like the idea of verifying that it’s me - and don’t trust them to not then just add my email address to another profile of me.

When I searched for my name + librarian, LFI came up as the first result, and then further down as an attendee at a conference a couple of years ago. But the rest of the results are not me.

None of this is terribly surprising - I have a very old and out of date LinkedIn profile, but it’s set as private as possible, and I don’t have professional info up elsewhere. I used to have a (very basic) website with my resume and such but that no longer exists. I never got into MySpace or Tumblr or LiveJournal so am free there, at least.

For images, my LFI photo came up as the first result with my name + librarian (followed by Sarah White), but the rest of the photos I saw are not me. And I was happy also that the old profile pictures I tried with both Google Images and Tineye didn’t show up!

I’d like to complete some of the other days but haven’t had a chance yet. In the meantime I’m glad to have this tool to share with patrons and colleagues!

updated! I tried searching for first-middle-last and got lots of results with previous addresses, which are probably worth trying to remove.

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Very on board (…sorry) with the privacy-ship-has-sailed feeling. This might not make it into my list of goals, but I’m hoping to get a better handle through LFI on how true (or not!) that is - or maybe more accurately, to feel less pessimistic about it.



I used Firefox and Google to search myself, and I found pretty much what I expected to find. I have a pretty common name, so I did a couple specific searches. I searched my name plus West Palm Beach, as well as my name plus library. Searching my name and city was probably the most alarming, because many of the results are those “white pages” style sites that list my residential history and even link it to my relatives. I know it’s pulling from mostly public information, but it gets pieced together in a very disconcerting way. Whenever I come across results like that, it makes me think about victims of stalking and how vulnerable those results can make you feel.

The results that came up when I searched my name plus library were standard. Mostly stuff from a local library association I belong to. What was strange was the picture search I did along with those terms. It brought my picture up from the library association site, but also everyone else whose picture is on that site. I wonder if there’s a way to prevent that.

I didn’t find anything on the Wayback Machine. I tried a lot of different terms, but nothing really came up. I’m not sure I was doing it correctly.

I haven’t done any of the other days yet, but I will. I’ve shared the site with a few of my friends that have become more concerned with online privacy after the Facebook news. I’m going to follow up with them and see what they learned as well.



I found very few pics of me not associated with library work. I did not want to delete anything. One photo that did come up though was me at a union rally. The union asked if it was okay if they used my picture, I said yes, and they used it a lot. This has political implications, no? Clicking through a few more pages of results, a site misidentified me as former coworker who was also a union member when they worked at the library. Interesting.

Tangential: I’m curious why some of us choose to have “professional” Google accounts. I’m using one right now though I am trying to ween myself off of it. When I created it, I think it was for the usability of the collaborative tools, and I also wanted an email address to use for things like listservs without them gumming up my somewhat small work inbox. As a government employee it is a liability for me to do work business on private email. This is gray area. I realize now there are technical ways to better manage my work email (filters, archiving, etc), but I also distinctly remember trusting Google more than I trusted my employer at the time I created the account. Years later, my feeling is the devil you know is better, and I want to shrink my use of propriety software. If my work is already using Microsoft, my feeling is to stick with that even if it is not ideal. The psychology of these decisions, and their implications, has me thinking. Why didn’t I trust my employer? What effect did that have on my work? If I trust my employer more now, why?

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@tesskwilson, I used the Wayback Machine a lot in my previous job as an archivist. I’m trying to think of specific instances, but usually it’s been times when I’m looking for information that I think probably existed on a previous iteration of a given website, or when I’m looking up the websites for now defunct organizations.



I think @Sarah_in_Oregon said the same thing. It really does help add a lot of noise! I on the other hand am the only Alison Macrina in the country, so I have to be vigilant about my data brokers.

This is a good example of threat modeling, which we’ll talk about in depth in a couple of weeks. What’s a bigger risk? Identifying yourself to the data broker, or leaving the old identifying information up there that can be used to target you somehow? It depends on who you are and what you want to protect, but I think generally speaking I’d say that the second one is the higher risk, given the way that information tends to get used for doxing and harassment purposes.



Yep, and the thing is, even while technically public, it would have been a lot harder to find had they not made it front and center and linked it to so much other “public” data.

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It certainly could! Imagine if your work starts an anti-union crackdown. You could be targeted as an agitator. In a library environment, this might not come with the kind of risk that working in an Amazon logistics center would, but it’s definitely the kind of stuff that we’ll think about once we start really getting into threat modeling.



just an FYI @clobdell, you can notify Tess in your reply by putting the @ symbol and her chat handle in here (the way I just did with yours, the same way you do on twitter).

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@josh - In re: pulling together publicly available info in an alarming way: The library provides a full text searchable version of our local newspaper (gossip rag) in our newspaper database. The paper lists marriages, divorces, and purchases of homes/property over 250,000 with name of the buyer and ADDRESS - most homes in our city are now over 250,000. I think they also publish arrests sometimes - not convictions, but arrests. I haven’t had a reference question about arrests yet! Publishing these public records was probably not such a big deal before they became archived and searchable in perpetuity! This is one instance where its lucky that libraries do a bad job of marketing their databases and teaching people how to search them effectively!



A few years ago I did a similar tech detox where I Googled myself and deleted all my social media presence including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn. I was shocked to find an open FTP server with my sensitive information open out there on the internet. The open folder has information on students that applied for a program that I was part of including my application, travel info with my passport info. I immediately reported the issue to the program director. Apparently Google cached some of the documents that I also asked Google to take down. I wasn’t sure how long my info was out there and it made my paranoid and I started to monitor my credit report.

This time around most of the information that I found are professional so they will remain.



Yep you nailed it! Our public records laws and practices have taken on completely new implications in a networked/digitally archived world.



OMFG. Wow! I’m so glad you found it and fixed it but holy crap that’s scary.



This is tangential, and please move/remove this if it doesn’t belong here, but I’m curious to hear from anyone else: how do you handle reference requests for personal phone numbers and addresses? We have one frequent caller in particular who asks for the phone numbers of women he sees on the news. Fortunately he usually doesn’t have enough info to identify them (we’ll find, say, 20 people with that name), but occasionally it’s a unique enough name with info listed on whitepages or in ReferenceUSA that someone can find the person he seems to be looking for. I and my colleagues are always super uncomfortable with this.

So, more broadly: what are our responsibilities as privacy-aware librarians in these situations? As with any reference questions, we shouldn’t assume we know the reason for someone’s query, but also there’s stalking, harassment etc. (not saying that’s the case in the above situation, but generally)…? What do you all think?

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Sarah, our local paper does the same this with the arrest reports. Their website updates just about every day with the booking blotter. The Sheriff’s office only retains them for like a year (I think, maybe less). But, there are other sites that keep that information forever. You and Alison are right, having all of this publicly available information pulled into easily accessible databases have implications that no one could’ve predicted at the time these laws were written.


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