Sunday, September 27, 2009

Public Service Announcement: The Internet is not Anonymous!

Despite the maturity of internet, and enough years of widespread use, many folks that should know better still have no clue that the internet is not an anonymous place where they can safely post whatever they like without risk of exposure. Anyone on Facebook is prone to having the occassional stranger send friend requests. I usually ignore these, but recently used one for a little experiment. The person's last name was obviously fake, so I decided to see how long it would take for me to find out more about them, and how much I could find.

I found full name, address, date of birth, more pictures, occupation, relatives names, where they attended school, and more. All this with just a first name, a picture and a list of their friends.

It is most shocking how many people under the age of 30 think they can post things on social networking sites and that information won't be available to others. One would expect that growing up in the information age and seeing people fired for MySpace Photos like Stacy Snyder, fired for Facebook comments like Kimberley Swann, or completely humiliated AND fired as shown in this fun video broadcast by the Young Turks.

Once you put something out on the internet, you have no control where it will go or who will see it. You may think you have secured your profile, but there is always a possibility of holes in that security. Many employers search these sites before and during your employment with them. That's how the Bishop came to call Alex a cross-dresser and a swinger, as immortalized here at Two Professors I know told me they often google their students, and their colleagues have declined to provide references to graduating students based on things they found that reflected poorly on the student.

So think long and hard before you hit post. And before friending and following people you don't know on social networking sites, please consider that they might well be information-gathering internet junkies like me. Do you really want your personal details in the hands of a stranger?

Hanna Nearly Picks up a Prostitute

Kevin and Michael needed a ride home from the train last night so I picked them up. After a glass of wine at their house I drove back toward mine. It was raining more than a little but not a complete downpour. At one intersection there was a woman standing in the street in the rain, waving. Thinking she might need help, I slowed to a stop, all while wondering what the hell I was planning to do if she did. Picking up strangers in the hood isn't usually a wise move. She walked over to the car and looked in with a huge grin. A man was standing not far away on the opposite side of the street, watching us. I smiled back at her but shook my head no very slightly and didn't roll down the window. She continued grinning as I just drove away.

It took a minute for all this to click in my head. She was probably in her 40s, looked like someone's sweet Grandmother, not badly dressed at all. She definitely seemed whacked out, and looked so happy that someone had stopped.

Most of my neighbors would probably have called the cops. It was right in my own neighborhood, on a fairly major street. I thought about how it isn't good for the property values. (Nice attitude, right? Don't worry about the woman, worry about how much your house is worth.) But last night I was in a "live and let live" mood, so I let it go.

And since I believe all things happen for a reason, I have to wonder if the reason for this was to teach me, a woman from the South, that waving back at people that wave to you from strange cars isn't always wise, especially if you are in the hood. A few months after the events described above, I was walking down a street where prostitutes are known to do business when a car pulled up next to me and the driver waved. I had the good sense to put my head down and keep walking.

The woman in question also recently walked by when I was getting in my car in front of my house and asked for a ride. I guess we are friends now. Again, the Southerner in me hesitated, but the wise woman in me won that round.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Football, Strangers and an apology

M- who always knows when to go home, and I attended a Big College Football game today. Mike is in Mongolia and all our usual suspects are out of town for the weekend, so when tickets became available it seemed like a good opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. We've both been to plenty of games, but being fairly new still to this area neither of us had attended a game at this particular school.

So we two fun-seekers left our surprisingly pleasant city early this morning and travelled the 3 hours to the game. Usually we bring lots of food everywhere we go, but today it was nice to just show up, sit in the practically disposable lawn chairs that I keep in my trunk because I wouldn't let my mom throw them away and drink a beer each before going into the stadium.

M- and I got separated in the entry line, because I had a big bag that needed to be inspected, so I was alone when I heard the older couple behind me talking about me.
GrandMom: She has *two* phones!
GrandDad: Just like our grand daughter
GrandMom: *Two* phones!
GandDad: She's always on those phones, talking on one, texting on the other
GrandMom: Yeah, she can't be away from those things for even a second.

At this point because I am shocked that people would just stand there discussing me while I was in earshot, I decide to enter the conversation.
Hanna matter-of-factly: She's a drug dealer.
To which I get four very large eyes and raised eyebrows.

GrandDad: We were just saying our grand daughter is just like you, she has two phones and she's always typing on them.
Hanna dryly: Yeah, she's probably a drug dealer. Drug dealers usually have two phones.
I let that sit for a moment, then I couldn't take it so I smiled and eased up.
Hanna: I'm just kidding. One is personal, the other is for work. I don't like making personal calls on the company's phone. And I can't sit still, I need to be doing something all the time so I am checking the news.

We had a lovely conversation after that, and without a doubt these two will continue talking about strangers within their earshot. I really hope they don't go home and accuse their grand daughter of illegal activities though. But then, there really aren't very many good reasons to have two phones so maybe I was right.

The game was great fun and as usual M- knew exactly when to go home so we had a very smooth ride out of there. On the way, I decided that though 36 years of watching football and not understanding at all was quite an accomplishment, it needed to come to a close. So I came home and I read the rules.