public data

I recently had someone I met out and about (at the Au Pied du Cochon 11th Anniversary party, actually) mention some things I had published online. Since this person does not have Twitter or Facebook, we are not “socially” linked in that way; ie, he had no real way of finding this stuff without googling me. Which he later admitted he had done. It’s pretty easy, even if you don’t know my last name. All you need to do is spell “Mary Claire” correctly and throw in the word “Mexico.” Boom.

A couple of questions come up from this situation:

1) Is it weird for this person to have access to stuff I publish online without him sharing similar information about himself?

2) Should I think again about the breadth of stuff I publish online?

3) Even if I continue to share the amount of stuff that I do, should I be restricting access in a way that allows me to monitor who is reading it?

Well, it was pretty easy to get the dude to admit he had googled me. He had sort of hidden it at first (why would you tell someone you just met that you had googled her); he mentioned some links I had recently shared as if he had found them himself. But he mentioned them both at the same time, so I knew right away. I called him on it, but in the context of “look, I know that publishing this goldmine of information about myself makes that information, well, public.” Also in the context of, “What I say is my honest thoughts, and it really is my voice, but it’s not actually my private life. I don’t publish stuff that I consider private.”

So no, I don’t mind that people can google me and find out what I think about GE’s tax evasion or how I feel, exactly, about having a maid, or whether I was drunk or went out dancing on Saturday night.

I do realize, though, that I am fortunate this dude is clearly not that much of a freak if he was willing to admit to tracking me down online. He actually seems like a pretty cool guy. But I wonder who else would do that who isn’t going to be so open about it.

Perhaps I should protect my tweets so that I can keep tabs on who is reading them. I am not sure I want to do this, though, because I am not sure I would get the interesting followers that I do if they had to go through the step of asking permission. I do think of my Tweets as being directed a general public rather than at people I actually know (unless I specifically direct a Tweet at someone).

I guess the main thing it makes me think twice is the information I publish that connects to my physical whereabouts… i.e, Foursquare. Yes, Mexico City is big, but I don’t know that I should be reporting the places to which I routinely go. And come to think of it, although the output goes to the same place (Twitter), my mentality when using Foursquare is much more “friend” than “public” oriented. I am thinking of my friends in Mexico when I hacer check-in. Checking in is a fun game, but maybe I will just stick to checking into the places I go to sporadically or something.


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