Friday, May 23, 2014

Search Yourself

Have you done a search on your name lately? You might be surprised. I've been pleasantly surprised and dismayed at what I've found when I've done searches in the past. So, when I had the opportunity to sign up for a free service that removes negative or incorrect content about me online, I signed up. Then I found out, of course, that to receive the full menu of their services, I needed to "upgrade" and pay a fee. Eeeeerrrrrggg!

Photo credit: Deepak Nanda

This morning, I spent about an hour editing or deleting my involuntary listings on whitepages.com and spokeo.com.  I wish I could delete my name from all the other "people finder" listings that come up in searches.  Their inaccuracy is shocking.  I also dislike that there are websites that sell my personal information.  I don't want them to do that anymore!  If someone wants my personal info, they need to ask me for it.

But this is the internet, where information flows in ways unimagined when it first became available to the public.  Websites exist to troll for information about you that they then post and call it a directory.  I've run across these sites.  One, based in Paris, France, offered to delete my information but only if I first confirmed it by allowing them access to my LinkedIn account.  Say what?  I ended up sending them a very, very snarky e-mail with my request that they delete me from their website immediately.  They sent me a form e-mail thanking me for my interest in their site and a list of links to utilize it to its full extent.

Lev Grossman in the May 26, 2014 issue of Time magazine wrote about a Spanish lawyer who, in 2010, lodged a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency against the newspaper La Vanguardia that had continued to have available on the internet an article about the lawyer's house being auctioned 12 years earlier.  The lawyer included Google in his complaint because the article came up on Google searches.  The suit went all the way to Spain's highest court, then to the European Union's Court of Justice which affirmed that a person should be able to have links removed from searches that are prejudicial or no longer relevant.  In other words, the Court said the Spanish lawyer had a right "to be forgotten."

Grossman contends that such a legal ruling could never happen in the U.S. because of the First Amendment.  But I love that he points out a larger insight, i.e. "...we don't necessarily have to accommodate ourselves to technology; we can demand that technology adapt itself to us." Well, isn't that the whole purpose of technology -- to serve humanity?  Why can't corrections be made or irrelevant information be removed?


My take on this issue is in light of the recent battle concerning net neutrality, which I see as an issue fueled by greed more than by the desire to make the internet "better" for users.  You put a price on something, or you pull out your wallet, and things get done.  Is that cynical?  Probably.  But I think it's also realistic.  The internet is being taken over by anyone who knows how to make money from it.  That's fine, I guess, as long as they're open and honest about it.

So, I signed up for what I thought was a free service to insure the content about me online was correct, relevant, and positive, and that my personal information was no longer sold.  Ta da!  The only way I'll get all that service is if I pay for it.....

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