Your Personal, Private Information Isn’t Private Anymore

I am a very private person. I don’t over-share, in fact most people, who know me well, only know a little piece, and they’re well aware of this. I never give out my telephone number, my address, or an email that I use for anything other than the email I give out when I have to give an email address for something, but couldn’t care less if it was spammed or compromised. It took me two years just to feel comfortable enough to list the city where I lived on my Facebook. And I know everyone on my Facebook, as in I’ve met them, and like them, and I don’t accept friend requests from strangers or people I don’t care for. I don’t even like giving out my phone number or address to a friend online, via messaging or email because I’m cautious. I’m the person that will cover the webcam on my computer just because I worry about someone watching me. Some might think this is paranoid or silly, but I stand behind the terms “cautious” and “smart.”

So imagine my dismay, when I found out that all of my information, including my exact address and phone number, was listed on a site just for the sake of being listed. Someone bought my information and posted it, just because he could. And yes, it is a “he” in this case: Tom Alciere. And he’s doing this to make money. He’s doing it to me, and if you’ve voted, he is probably doing it to you too. Just google your name. I don’t make a habit of googling myself because I am so careful, between what I share and the privacy settings when I share, but the other week something just made me do it. A feeling, and prickling sensation that went up my spine and gave me gooseflesh. Heightened self-preservation instincts courtesy of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) serve me well sometimes. When I saw my information on the site I felt a mixture of shock, outrage and horror. This is not okay.

To be clear, I understand that this is legal, even if I disagree about whether it should be or not. To be clear, I think this is bullshit. I feel like if someone is thoughtful enough to try and protect their privacy then they should be able to. We’re not talking about paparazzi and someone who lives their life in the limelight. We’re talking about every day people. I believe that this is wrong in principle, and I believe that strongly. But my biggest issue with this has to do with safety. I don’t think it is safe to publish people’s addresses and phone numbers all willy nilly on a website that anyone can access. And that is coming from someone who has both worked as a domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocate, as well as a survivor. My safety, my life is being put at risk just so a guy in New Hampshire can make money instead of getting a real job. I’m so beyond pissed.

I think that every survivor works to rebuild their life once they’re able to escape, but the fear is always there in the background, crinkling in the air like a static charge. I got away in 2008, after five months of planning. It wasn’t that I was planning instead of doing, but people who haven’t lived it don’t understand it’s not as easy as leaving. It never is. And I’m not talking about love or whatever emotional or psychological hold the person has over you, I’m talking about physical reality, logistics, safety. The truth is that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when they try to leave. Abusers are out for control and leaving is the ultimate challenge to their control. That’s when people end up in the hospital, or worse… The people who are able to escape are smart, probably had help and most definitely got lucky. All three applied to me, and I never ever forget that.

When I left, I moved across the country. I knew if I didn’t get far enough away where he couldn’t easily reach me, I would end up in a body bag. It’s not an exaggeration, it’s facing up to the truth, at least in my situation. He was a dangerous sociopath and I hadn’t seen him for what he was because he didn’t want me to, until he already had me trapped. I don’t think of him often, but still at least once a day I shudder because he is the fear, and it is always there. I know he still looks for me. I’ve changed my number a few times, and I am unlisted, but for the first few years he was still able to find me. Now I’ve gone thirty-eight months without him being successful, and then I see this. If he so much as googled my name he could find me. He would know where I live. And… I don’t want to finish that thought.

I still can’t get over how casual everyone involved seems to be about this. It’s legal, a matter of public record, freedom of the press, liberty – and I’m still calling bullshit. I try to think about all of the reasons people could benefit from having this access and it’s a very short list, and most of it becomes redundant because in these “innocent” cases, people can usually go straight to the source for the information, or ask a mutual friend. And then I think of all the potential ways this information could be harmful and that list is much longer. What about law enforcement, judges, doctors who perform abortions, domestic violence survivors, victim advocates (you’d be surprised how often we come under fire from the abusers of our clients) and the list goes on. There is absolutely no reason that our information should be made public and easily accessible just so some lazy jack-hat can make a quick and easy buck.

I am angry at him, but I am also angry at the county clerk for selling my information. I am angry that the state I live in, and every other state seems to be okay with this, or doesn’t seem to be doing anything to at least take care of the problem. In my eyes, the people who sell other people’s information are just as bad as the opportunist who publishes that information to make money for himself. I guess that in order to have a voice in this country (you know by voting) the price is your own personal safety. That’s just fucked.

If you haven’t already, I implore you to google your name (whatever name you used to vote last) find the website (the asshat has a different one for each state, sometimes more than one) and request that information be removed. Most sites allow you to make the request online, some require you to mail in your request. Keep checking until your information is taken down. My husband’s information was removed after about ten days, but apparently I’m still in their queue of “don’t post my shit on your site” requests. I really hope my information is taken down soon. I’ll certainly sleep easier knowing that it is, but not as easy as I used because now a nagging thought will accompany me each night before I fall asleep…

“Was the damage already done?”


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0 Responses to Your Personal, Private Information Isn’t Private Anymore

  1. Leah says:

    This is insane. I definitely DO NOT want my private info out there for just anyone to have.

    • DMW says:

      Exactly! It is so messed up, and twisted. I hope you were spared, and if not, now you know. I know some states have already looked into legislation that would prohibit publishing your info online, but not necessarily the sale of it. Other states like Colorado, have ways that you can pay a fee to the county clerk you’re registered in so that they don’t sell your info period. I live in Colorado, but this option is not on any forms or publicized. I only found out about it after getting so upset that this happened in the first place. It’s ridiculous that keeping our private information private is a long and complicated process. -DMW

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