Friday, October 28, 2011

How Google is Creepy

For most people, we try to draw a fine line between having fun on the internet with our kink, and keeping that fun out of our employer’s, family’s, or civic organization’s hands. We don’t mind talking about the great beating we got (or gave) on Friday night, but we don’t really want our next potential employer, ex spouse, or custody-deciding judge to know about it.

Ever since I had a problem with someone on Fetlife, I’ve kept a watch on his profile. At first it was because he kept posting shit about me on his own pictures (so I couldn’t remove it). Then it turned into a sort of sociology experiment- could this asshat actually learn enough from the internet to get a decent profile together and draw in someone?

Thankfully, in almost a year of checking up on his profile, he still hasn’t figured it out. In fact, he’s garnered several groups specifically designed to call attention to his asshattery, dozens of blog posts about it (not just mine), and even had a fetish named for him. But when he started posting pictures of very young girls, I became concerned (yes, I DO actually report those kinds of pictures). Suffice to say that I’m not the only one keeping an eye on this douchenozzle.

When I tweeted about his latest exploits, one of my friends tweeted back that my behavior was bordering on “scary stalker territory”. That threw me for a little bit of a loop. Was I being stalkerish? In order to know that, I had to figure out why this guy’s antics fascinated me so much. And what my motivations were for keeping an eye on him.

And then I realized that it wasn’t so much about him, as it was about him being the poster boy for all of the other creepy, wanker, jackasses who find our online kink world and instead of using it to explore kink in a really cool way, they use it as a means to bring the rest of us into their fantasy. For the most part- unconsensually. From comments on pictures, to trolling groups, to posting stolen pictures as their own, to sending the same idiotic messages to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people- without regard for the person receiving such messages. To them, the people on the internet aren’t “real”. He’s become the focal point for all of those douchenozzles that have found our way into our community spaces, our munches and our online world who just don’t fucking “get it”. Sadly- his example isn’t unique.

But back to my point- when watching this guys profile change almost daily, it became clear that he didn’t know very much about how the internet worked. He thought that his Fetlife profile was his own site, he thought that everyone was there for the same reason he was- namely to find someone to act as a conduit for living out his fantasy. But what was most interesting to me was that he posted several versions of his “story”, using real locations and names of the people involved. From there, it wasn’t difficult to actually FIND him.

He posted his email address on one thread. Googling that one turned up his real name, his OKCupid profile, and his blog. Googling his real name gave me his address, telephone number, his wife and children’s names, and even his birthdate and last four digits of his social security number. From there, it was easy to get a picture of his neighborhood, find out about his service record, his birthdate and his income. And I never touched any of the “other databases” that are easily accessed for small fees. Or for that matter, did I bother with Ancestry, county property records or any of the other hundreds of databases that are available for free.

It was scary how much I found out about this guy from a simple posting of an email address.

And it made me think about how easy it would be to ACTUALLY stalk someone. It also made it perfectly clear to me that even if we THINK we cover our own tracks, it’s nearly impossible to do so. For someone with time, a few dollars and motivation, it’s all too easy to find out too much information. It doesn’t take a genius and in fact- the tools available to do it are so easily found on Google that it probably wouldn’t even take my grandmother more than a few clicks to do it. There would be few things worse for many of us than to be outed in our online lives. It’s as easy for stalkers, ex spouses, judges, lawyers and employers to get this information as it is for me to do it.

So, I wonder- have you stalked yourself online lately?

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