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Google Shows a Map to your House


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 10:47 AM

I just saw this and it's got me boiling mad (and I don't angry that easily).

Consumer is uncomfortable with Google ogle

Google has implemented a new feature where you can type someone's telephone number into the search bar and hit "enter," and then you will be given a map to the person's house.

Before forwarding this to you, I tested it by typing a telephone number in Google.com. The number came up, and when I clicked on the MapQuest link, it actually mapped out where that person lived. Quite scary. Think about it -- if a child, single person, ANYONE gives out his/her phone number, someone can actually now look it up to find out where he/she lives. The safety issues are obvious and alarming.


My phone number comes up, with a map to my old address, where I lived as a single mother. This is a serious violation of privacy and I think Google has lost their collective mind with this one.

To remove:

But you can remove your listing from the Google site: Put your phone number in the Google search box, separating the area code and exchange by dashes. When the page comes up with your information, click on the phone icon next to your name. That will bring up a page that has an "unlist" option. Fill out the information and click to file the request with Google. Krane said the removal process takes about 24 hours.


The article says people are happy with this feature. I'm not. Are you?


Kim

<<Added later: I found this website (http://www.visi.com/...ress/index.html) helpful in guiding me through the process of contacting my area Senators and Congresspersons. I feel what Google has done is a violation of US homeland security and privacy, regardless of whether or not there is an option to remove one's phone number from their database. Most people are not aware there are maps to their homes in the first place.) >>

#2 Ron Carnell

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 12:07 PM

Seems to me Google is only doing what all search engines do -- make publicly available information easier to find.

If your phone number and address are in the phone book (i.e., not unlisted), you probably wouldn't be too surprised when your neighbor down the street finds it? The only real surprise, then, is that your neighborhood is getting so much larger.

If there is any new danger here, it might be that Google's removal procedure will tend to give people a false sense of security. It's not like Google is destroying public records. Electronic phone books are ubiquitous and your address will still be available in a hundred other ways and places.

Your privacy needs to be protected at the source, and an unlisted phone number seems like the logical first step. Though, frankly, I'm not sure that's enough any more?

#3 cre8pc

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 01:23 PM

My answer to those who tell me to unlist my phone number is this:

What if one of my kids were injured in a serious car accident and couldn't remember their phone number, or were in shock, whatever, and the hospital needed to contact me?

What angers me so much is that I wasn't asked by Google if I wanted my phone number listed. The phone company asks if you want it listed or not, in their book. It doesn't say, do you want it listed so that the entire planet can call you and drive up to your house?

There was no choice. Even the instructions on how to remove the phone number are not obvious at first. How many people who do not use the Internet, but have listed phone numbers, are aware that there is a map to their house on the Internet?

It's less of the fact that the phone number and addy are there, but a MAP to the house? I may as well as stand out on my front lawn and offer to be a target for every lunatic, terrorist, rapist and murderer out there. And hand them my kids too.

Google messed with me and I'm not forgiving them on this one.

Kim

#4 Ruud

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 01:43 PM

I agree that this is the next step in total interlinking of all (freely available) data.

I also agree that this a little bit over the top.

And useless....

In the Netherlands, where I come from, it used to be illegal for the phone company to give you a phone number without you knowing the address of the person. Likewise they were not allowed to give you an address based on a phone number. Since telephone books are on CD now that has changed, at least for all practical purposes.

Having 4 daughters internet security and education has always been high on my agenda. I've learned that it is highly uncommon to lose a child on internet based activities. I also learned that ID protecting tools are willfully circumvented by kids by typing the information in any other way not blocked by the tool. I finally learned that pure terror threats and a keylogger do magic: give out your info and you will not get on the net again until you have your own place - dot, full stop, end of story. THAT has worked.

As a geek idea it is fun but where does this stop - and who is in control of where it stops? Enter a phone number, get an icon for a map, click on the link to see webcams in this neighbourhood?

Cross referencing information is very powerful, as we all know. Based on seemingly unrelated piles of data advertising companies can take your ZIP code and confidently predict your income, family make up etc.

Where it stops......

Ruud

#5 dragonlady7

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 02:03 PM

It is SO easy to cross the line between handy information and terrifyingly too much information.
Computers and the Internet make it that much easier.
A friend of mine was stalked at college. How? The person in question simply added her IM name to his BuddyList, and he instantly knew whenever she was on her computer, because IM tells you if other users are idle and if so, for how long. Makes sense in chat software if you want to know if someone's there or not. But, means that if you leave IM on all the time like most of my college buddies did, then everyone knows when you're in your room (because, like all my college buddies, waking the computer up to check for new messages or email was as reflexive as turning on the light switch).
She blocked his username so she'd be invisible to him, and he got another one and added her to that list instead so she didn't know he was watching her. She didn't stop using the chat software because it was her link to friends and family.

But try explaining that to someone who hasn't been a part of that culture, that lives its life entirely on IM. None of that situation makes any sense unless you've seen how college kids live with their always-on connections and their always-active buddy lists, keeping in contact and keeping tabs on each other, etc. This person, simply because he knew her IM handle, knew when she left her room and when she slept and when she was talking to people.

There is just an unprecedented amount of information available when you live your life in an always-on internet connection.

Anyone sufficiently interested could find out where you lived from your telephone number, and could look up how to get there. It's not that there's more information available in that respect through Google. It's just that now it's collated for you, and presented *right there*, so handy and convenient and very, very, very disturbing. I saw that feature and checked for myself and sure enough, I was #1 under my own name, for my old house in Rochester (where I lived with three college dudes. Not that scary. Now it's a frat house, i think)...
It's jarring. It's eerie. But I don't think it's any more inherently dangerous than before. Most people who would use that information for evil would be driven enough that they'd compile it themselves. Most people using Google to find it would be simply wanting an easy way to know how to get somewhere.
But, it is disturbing, and upsetting.

#6 Ron Carnell

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 02:35 PM

Kim, national phone books on CD has been around for at least ten years. Google may present a very public face for your anger, but the real culprit is your phone company. They've been giving out your phone number and address for several decades. I taught a Searching seminar more than five years ago and still have a few working links bookmarked. Enter just your name into any one of these pages and you'll see what I mean. Put in your state, too, and you can narrow the search pretty quickly. The only thing Google has done is make searching easier. And, uh, isn't that their mandate?

http://people.yahoo.com/

http://www.att.com/directory/

http://www.ussearch....sumer/index.jsp

http://www.whowhere.lycos.com/

Ruud, I know EXACTLY what you mean. All of my sites are highly interactive, and even my non-forum sites encourage people to leave comments and reviews. I just spent the last three days, two or three hours at a time, reviewing 5,000 comments before they could be publicly posted. Part of that is removing the inevitable potty-mouths, but a very large part of it is also removing all personal information. Teens especially, but adults too, are much too trusting. Give me a kid's name and their school, and nine times out of ten it'll take about thirty minutes to get directions to their house. People just aren't aware of how easily their anonymity can be pushed to the side.

#7 bwelford

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 02:43 PM

... and the crazy thing is the phone company charges you for an unlisted number, at least here in Canada. :roll:

#8 cre8pc

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 03:13 PM

The whole thing is pathetic. I filled out Do Not Call forms. I have anti-spam software and we jump through technical hoops to protect the computers/security here on the wireless network, and my daughter has to walk on a main road to get to the bus. A few months ago, another girl was raped and beaten on the way to her bus stop. How does something so simple, like having a phone and walking outside, end up to be so high risk?

Like Rudd, we have strict rules about IM. We force Trillian on them and the kids are not allowed privacy. We can read and monitor their conversations at any time and they know it. We question who their buddies are and check profiles. My daughter has a website. She uses the 'Net more than a phone. One of her friends (these are 13/14 year olds) had a beautiful website that was hacked into and turned into a porn site. I thought her mother was going to die from shock.

Google could have set a standard for themselves but they chose not to. There's no integrity in taking information freely available and turning it into something dangerous (a map to one's house. Why not hire the limo driver too?)

A few years ago someone threatened me by telling me they were coming to take my children away. I had to call their schools, changed the locks on the house, notified police and put my neighbors on alert. None of them said, "Well Kim, don't bother trying to protect your kids. Your phone number is listed and the Internet has a map to your house."

When is somebody going to stand up and have the courage to say that the Internet and search engines are not a free invitation to our private lives? At the very least, if someone reads this thread, they are a little bit more informed.

Thanks Ron. I didn't know phone books were put into CD's either.

Kim

#9 invader

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 03:15 PM

I agree with Kim that this is blatant, not Google alone, but in general.
Phone companies included.

But then we can't blame Google to put it all together online, when its easily available offline as well. Here in India, you can call enquiry, and do the same thing.

Guess it does more harm than profit. Sure thing.

#10 Ron Carnell

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 03:35 PM

Yep, they do here in Michigan, too, Barry. And I pay it (even though my phone number is pretty much all over the Internet these days). :)

True story.

About three years ago, the publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books contacted me in hopes I could put them in touch with one of my authors. They wanted to publish her poem, Final Act, in one of the teen books, but her email address was no longer valid. I don't require full disclosure when someone submits their work to my sites (since they'd just lie any way if they didn't want to give it), so all I had from the author was her real first name (she published under Lia Fail, which Irish fans will immediately recognize as a pseudonym), her dead email address, and the IP address from the last time she was active in my forums.

It took me three days. The IP address gave me her geographic area, which led me to a local school she had attended, which strangely enough led to finding her husband (she dated him in school) and thus her last name. Getting her phone number after that was a walk in the park. Of course, when I made the call it was still based on guesses and suppositions, and it felt more than a little awkward to ask a total stranger if she wrote poetry under the pen name Lia Fail. :)

You can just imagine how shocked she was to hear from me. Quickly followed by delight that someone wanted to publish her. The work I put into finding her paid off, though, not just for her, but also for the other poets that have since been published by the Chicken Soup people. They've since spent a lot of time at my sites, and I even got a tiny blurb in two of their books as a personal thank you. I'm a real sucker for happy endings. :)

BTW, I not only have links for all the people-search stuff from that seminar, but I have corresponding links to all the privacy stuff. Here's one that EVERY teen should be forced to read, I think.

http://www.eastonpd..../cyberstory.htm

#11 Grumpus

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 03:38 PM

Simple Solution: Have your phone bill mailed to a PO box and set up an automatic payment plan.

Reality, though...

Addresses along with phone numbers have been around as long as telephones. It takes something like google doing something like this to cause an outcry. If it weren't for the outcry that may one day find some new legislation to take care of this, I'd be forced to abduct children the old fashioned way - by combining the power of a phone book and a map. Scary and absurd sounding, but true. It's always been that easy to find out how to get to someone's house. People who would cause harm know this already - they don't need Google to save them a step or two.

If anything, I'd be thanking Google for bringing this issue up. And, of course, I hope that if some sort of organized effort comes into being that the energies are focused in the proper place. Putting a stop to google using the data doesn't do any good. Phone companies need to have an option where no address is shown, but a name and number are. It's that simple. For home phone lines, no address should be the default, too.

Reality isn't pretty, but it's real.

G.

#12 bwelford

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:09 PM

I guess the only solution is for each of us to use only a mobile phone. Unless GPS swings into place we should be OK. :)

#13 cre8pc

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:15 PM

Have your phone bill mailed to a PO box and set up an automatic payment plan.


Done!

Thanks Stock.

Kim

#14 Ruud

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 11:22 PM

Kim, this is a good article on family internet safety with some extensive tips.

Like I've mentioned, I've been living fears, concerns and worries like these for some time now. You have to sit back and look at it from a bit of a distance though.

According to NISMART-2 research, which studied the year 1999, an estimated 797,500 children were reported missing; 58,200 children were abducted by nonfamily members; 115 children were the victims of the most serious, long-term nonfamily abductions called "stereotypical kidnappings"; and 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

(my bolding)

On the other hand, 114.400 children aged 12-18 were sexually molested in 1995. 93% of them know their attacker. A third of those attackers are family members, nearly 60 percent are acquaintances. (RAINN, US DoJ report).

The danger usually is much closer to home. The numbers are literally staggering.

Ruud

#15 polarmate

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 03:00 AM

Here in India, you can call enquiry, and do the same thing.

You don't have to call enquiry and wait for ages. For the past 2-3 years at least, MTNL and its sister companies have had their entire subscriber list online. You can look up the new numbers if you key in the old number. You get the complete postal address as well. That's how I have been able to tell which is my aunt's new # and which is not cos there are SOOO many people by the same name, both first and last!

There is a site http://www.peopledata.com/ that sells your information for a fee. Some records even have a birth date. And also offer a 'satellite photo.' Who gave them the permission to sell these personal details? Who is buying this information? And for what purpose?

#16 invader

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 03:03 AM

wow, didn't know MTNL was so u3br :D

#17 polarmate

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 03:06 AM

The danger usually is much closer to home.

This reminds me of a conversation about how some people let their kids freak out on telemarketers when they call. It was considered a hoot. Not many stopped to consider that the person calling not only had the telephone number but they also had the complete address and now they had the kids' names, too. You really don't know who the kid is talking to. The telemarketer could be someone from a town that is not so far away ... OK! So I am paranoid! But like they say, it's never your child it happens to or it never happens in your town...until it does.

#18 polarmate

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 03:09 AM

u3br???

BTW, Kim, Google does take your listing out of their phone book. I got ours removed over a year ago.

#19 invader

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 07:29 AM

u3br???


Sorry about that, it's my hacking background.
Ermm..in simple terms it means, very cool/geeky :wink:

#20 dragonlady7

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 07:42 AM

>the danger usually is much closer to home

It's true.

The thing we're debating here is simply making all the information so easily, readily, conveniently, centrally available. Chances are a million times higher that somebody will use that information to find you to return your wallet than that somebody will come to your house to take your children. The information exists, and has to be available somehow-- even if most of it is concealed, enough of it can be uncovered. Malicious people, if they want to, will find you, and for the type of sickos we all most fear, they may simply find you by walking down the street and looking in your windows. Having your information protected may or may not help.

So really, what it comes down to, is that the world is a terrifying place. We can (and must) fight to safeguard our privacy, but we can't protect it entirely. The only way to have total privacy is to fake your own death and live as a hermit in a secluded area where nobody ever goes. And so we must simply accept that even our homes cannot be taken for granted as totally safe havens. We must always be prepared to deal with the worst, and remember to take precautions even when we feel ourselves to be the most safe.
This was hard for me to realize, growing up-- I lived in an old house at the end of a dead-end dirt road with 50 acres of property behind it, and I just always took for granted the fact that nobody knew where it was or would ever come down there. Our windows didn't lock. Our doors didn't lock. Mom left the keys on the car dashboard at night when she parked it in the driveway.
But when I was a teenager, things happened-- we found a patch of marijuana growing on our property, I got obscene phone calls from someone who knew my mother's name, our mailbox got vandalized-- and I realized, no matter how secluded and safe your home feels, it's still a part of the real world, where other people live, and other people aren't always safe.
I took control and was comforted by learning to use firearms from my father-- perhaps it would take 20 minutes for the nearest police force to arrive, were I attacked, but in the meantime I had the knowledge, confidence, and firepower to defend myself. I've never had to, but I knew I could.
Now I live in an apartment in a crowded little town. I can be comforted and feel in control because I am surrounded by people who would hear my distress were something to happen, and I know how to fight back long enough for help to arrive.

I imagine it's much worse when you are entrusted with the care of a small child who can neither fight nor flee. I don't remember how my parents protected me when I was little. I know they raised me sensible, not telling people my name or where I lived. But I was a teenager by the time I got my first modem, and nobody's fool.

All we can do is take sensible precautions. It doesn't matter whether they know where you live. You simply have to do what you can.

#21 cre8pc

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 11:50 AM

Malicious people, if they want to, will find you,


True. But now it's much easier for middle of the road people who may not dream of doing something harmful on most days, to get a bug up their boo and do damage with little effort.

If you've ever worked in the emergency health field, (I did), you see how drugs have a real impact on rationality. Anyone who suddenly finds themselves in a situation where they're being threatened, and is not prepared for what needs to be done to protect one's family, is a target. I've been threatened many times for the articles I used to write back in the late 1990's on SEO scams. Some people are online terrorists.

Ugly divorces. Sometimes a spouse has to protect themselves by moving and they don't want their residence location known. An address alone, in a phone book, takes a bit more research sometimes than a map to the house. But of course, one only has to type in the addy in something like Mapquest...

In any case, some of my friends have done some checking and reported back that in 100% of the cases, the information Google had on them was incorrect. The info is based on old data. Guess that's one database Google isn't focused too hard on :roll:

In light of all this, I have renewed interest in Internet privacy, though I have a sinking feeling it's too late and none of us is truly safe anymore.

Kim

#22 cre8pc

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 01:39 PM

Here is Google's response to my complaint:

Hi Kim,

Thank you for your note. We understand your concerns regarding the Google PhoneBook feature. Please be assured that Google does not intentionally publish any information that is not already available through other public sources. As outlined on the PhoneBook removal page:
 
"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. If you would like to have your telephone number
completely unlisted (including from your local phone book), contact your
local phone company and request to be both unlisted and unpublished."
 
The intent of all of Google's services from Websearch to Google Groups to
Google News is to organize and provide *publicly* available information.
Due to the vast amount of data that we aggregate (more than 4 billion web
pages, 845 million Usenet messages, and 880 million images) many
individuals become aware for the first time that their personal
information is publicly available via a Google search. We recognize that
this phenomenon occurs and make it easy to remove personal information
from Google to help address your concerns. It's important to realize,
however, that this does not remove your information from other sources
online that may also provide access to it.
 
If you would like to be removed from our PhoneBook, please fill out the
form at http://www.google.co.../pbremoval.html . Removal requests
should be processed in approximately 48 hours. You may also want to check
your information on other reverse phone books online, such as: 
 
Switchboard.com
Whitepages.com 
Reverse Phone Directory 
Phonenumber.com 
Smartpages.com
 
For a comprehensive list of reverse phone lookup services, try a Google
search.


We appreciate your feedback on this topic and thank you for taking the
time to write.


Regards,
The Google Team


To which I ranted even more in the new Cre8asite Blog called Cre8ative Flow - I Heard Back From Google

Kim



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