Monday, August 3, 2015
1 Thing to Do Today to Protect Your Online Privacy
When I appeared on Who Wants to be a Millionaire earlier this year, I immediately received a massive influx of new Facebook friend requests from random (mostly creepy) guys from across the country. I was momentarily surprised until I read a few Facebook messages from these new, would-be friends, congratulating me on my TV appearance (among other things). Now I know whenever my episode has re-aired - without fail, my Facebook blows up with all sorts of friend requests and messages (including some from some bitter strangers who apparently have nothing better to do than critique my performance!).
I knew that my full name and hometown would be displayed on the screen, but it was still a surprise to realize that some people would actually take the time to go to their computers, type in my full name, and reach out with unwanted communication. I shrugged it off, deleted the requests, and blocked any inappropriate users...and then I checked the mail one day. As in my actual, physical mailbox located at my home.
There was a handwritten envelope addressed to me from an address I didn't recognize. I was shocked to open it and find a very long, personal letter from someone who had seen me on the show and wanted to be my "best friend." It gave me chills to realize that I had been tracked down by a complete stranger so easily, and that anyone could show up at my front door with minimal effort.
After doing some digging, I realized that my home address (complete with exact apartment number) was listed on Whitepages, along with my address history, my approximate age, names of my family members, and more personal information. Luckily, I was moving to a new address shortly after receiving this letter but as a very private person (after all, I don't even use my full name on this blog!), I wanted to remedy this so I followed these quick, easy steps from Whitepages to remove my address from the public database. I shared this with my family and friends (who were equally clueless about this very private information being so readily available) and hope it helps you too:
1. Go to Whitepages using your computer and click on "Remove from Directory" located in the footer. If you already have an account, please log in and skip to step 4.
2. To create an account, you need to provide a valid email address
3. We’ll send you an email with a link to verify your email address. Click the “Verify my email” link provided.
4. Once you verify your email you will then be taken to the "Opt-out of Whitepages" screen where you copy and paste the URL to the exact listing you wish to have removed.
(Each page has its own unique web address (URL). This is how your computer locates the web page that you are trying to find. An example of a URL is: http://www.whitepages.com/name/John-Doe/Seattle-WA/6u3wkef. To find the URL go to the top of your browser and look for the web address for the page you are on. Copy that line and paste it in the removal field.)
5. After you have copied and pasted the URL to the exact listing you wish to have removed, you will be asked to verify the listing that you wish to remove.
6. You will have to also verify with the phone number that is listed on the listing in order to remove the information. If no phone number is present or you no longer have access to the phone number listed, please contact Customer Support.
How do you protect your privacy online?