Can you imagine a place where everything is public? There is no privacy and anyone with the desire can view your personal information?
Welcome to the internet, is this your first time?
I’m sure that most of you out there and our avid readers are aware of the interworkings of the interweb but there are those whose ‘working knowledge’ doesn’t necessarily provide them with the details.
Privacy is a big deal today. Consumers refuse to provide even basic information due to cyber criminals and even Facebook has been criticized for their practices regarding user data. Of course, not everyone understands what the threat is. Yes, the public at large is aware of identity theft. They know that junk mail is decreasing and spam email is increasing but what few realize and most fail to notice is where it all comes from – Data mining.
The realm of people that I come into contact with each day, have dealings on the internet. They have a Facebook or Twitter account. They use email and instant messenger. They have a blog and, in a lot of cases, their own website- sometimes both. None of these things are bad, even letting the world know that you have them isn’t bad. The bad part comes in when you fail to do the simplest of tasks to protect yourself.
Facebook users- don’t let your profile be public or viewable through search engines. You can still show up on your high school alumni page without enabling every single detail you’ve posted show up for all to see. Tweeters- if you are going to ‘tweet’ anything that could be traced back to you, personal; lock that account up and don’t approve strangers (ie: people you don’t know) to “follow” you.
All you IM’ers- stop adding “friends” automatically! And if you are going to send one- for goodness sake, take the time to write three little words: “hey, it’s ___” because not everyone knows you via your ‘nickname’. As for email, it is time to set up more than one account. One- use for IM, friends, and family but the other- use for everything else. Signing up for a store account? Email #2. Correspondence with your European cousin? Email #1.
As for the bloggers out there, you need to realize that your blog is actually a website. So joe.blog.com is an actual domain name <joe being the subdomain, blog being the main or root domain, and .com being the top level domain= your own URL>. And unless you signed up with privacy options, this blog is treated just like every other website out there.
Websites are actually just another word for the name of a domain. The URL and IP address may be the full enchilada but the domain name is the key ingredient.
All domains are registered through ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). This organization runs the international database (aka registry) for every domain on the internet. At the beginning of the internet, when computers were merely accessible within a particular network, users had to use a command to look up other users. That command was ‘WHOIS’ and with the birth of the ‘www’, the government (known for holding on to antiquated rituals) continued using the term for the actual database of what was on the internet. When the oversight ceased being run by Uncle Sam and started being not-for-profit, WHOIS became the official name for the registry databases.
So when the company that you bought your website through gets your contact information, unless you say otherwise- it is about to become available on the worldwide web. Why? Because it has to be. That’s right, if you don’t deem it otherwise- ICANN and InterNIC (Internet Network Information Center) govern the internet by requiring that every presence on it ‘register’. By signing up, you have become a ‘registrant’ and the company that you went through is either a ‘registrar’ (responsible organization that lists domains in the registry) or a ‘reseller’ (company that sells domains but goes through a registrar for the actual registry submissions).
Because the registry is public, anything you provide is too. There are people and organizations that “mine” the WHOIS for their nefarious purposes. Don’t believe me? Go check for yourself!
Go to who.is or whois.net and type in your domain name. Suddenly, a plethora of information will pop up before your eyes and this is where you will find your name, address, email, phone number, and any other information that you provided when you signed up for your website.
Hate the idea of being www viewable? Then do the same thing that you did for your Facebook page, make the site private. Your registrar or reseller likely offers a “proxy” service. You’re going to have to pony up the fees (because, hey, service isn’t free) but a buck a month seems like a fair trade to keep John in Nigeria from using the WHOIS information in any search engine to steal your security.