Article, January 2008
Google Search Bar and Your Telephone Number
By Sandy Berger, CompuKISS.com
Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.
If you know someone’s telephone number, how hard would it be to find that person? Well, with Internet resources, it couldn’t be easier. Type any telephone number into the Google search bar and you will quickly be given the name and address that relates to that number. Even a bit scarier is the fact that right next to the name and address is the word “map”. Just click on that word and the location in question is marked with a big green arrow on a detailed map. One more click and you can see the building with that address from a satellite view.
I say this is scary because it is. This information may be put to good use by friends and relatives, but in the hands of a stalker or a criminal, it can be highly dangerous. Imagine how easy it would be to find a woman who lives alone in a rural area. Or think about a child who might innocently give out their telephone number and have a pervert be able to find their exact location so easily.
If you think that you are exempt from this because you have an unlisted or unpublished number, think again. Google states, ”Our phone and address listings are gathered by a third party provider, which collects telephone directories and other public records available elsewhere on the web.” It is the “other public records” that might get your telephone number into these listings. They use everything from public utility records, court records, and property records, to business records. I was able to easily find the names and addresses of several people who have unlisted telephone numbers.
Because of privacy complaints, Google has initiated a way to be removed from this reverse telephone lookup. Just search for your telephone number in google and click on the link with your name. You will be taken to another page with an obvious removal link.
Yet, if you want to remove your name and address from the entire Web, you should be prepared to settle in for a long, tedious task. Removing my telephone number from Google was easy. Unfortunately, I quickly found more than a dozen other places that had my telephone number listed including Yahoo, InfoSpace, Intelius, AnyWho, and addresses.com. Each one of these has a different method for removing your name and number, and often the process is quite convoluted. At Yahoo, there was an obvious “Remove my Listing” link. But the link went to the Yahoo help pages, which were not at all helpful. It took me about 30 minutes of searching to find the correct removal link. (http://phone.people.yahoo.com/py/psPhoneSupp.py)
Although most of the major search sites did not have listings for cell phones, I found that I could get the names and addresses for many cell phones numbers at Intelius for just $14.95. Getting your name and address out of Intelius is even more complicated than removing it from some other websites. To opt out of Intelius they require that you fax them a copy of your driver’s license or a notarized form proving your identity.
Even if you take the time to eliminate your name and address from all the directories that you find today, you might appear in some new directory tomorrow. Yet, if you want to guard your privacy, it may be worth the effort to eliminate yourself from as many of the directories as possible. It may also be time to realize that a simple thing like a telephone number can now lead to more personal identification than you ever imagined. Perhaps we need to start guarding our telephone number as carefully as we do our social security number.
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