Privacy and Security TidBits

Online Directories and Privacy: The Story of Jo Average Jr., Part 1

Jo Average Jr. has just been laid off because of the recession and has started sending his resume to hundreds of potential employers. He has many years of experience in his field, but was careful not to go too much back in time on his resume, so as not to reveal his real age. Even though he looks ten years younger than his age, is fit and healthy, he is only too painfully aware of the prevalent “ageism” prejudice in the workplace.
When employer John Justlucky Sr. reads Jo’s resume, he is impressed by Jo’s qualifications and decides to quickly google his name and city. There is no one else with Jo’s name in his city, so it is easy to find him on google. On top of the first google results pages are two ads screaming for John’s attention: One says: Info on Jo Average Jr. It is by
The other one says: We found Jo Average Jr!!!!! It is by
How can John resist? After all, he is doing his due diligence. So he clicks on one of the links, types in Jo’s name, and up pops a profile page with Jo’s age in big letters: 57. John Justlucky Sr. quietly deletes Jo’s resume and proceeds to look at the next one.
After a few weeks of no responses Jo starts to wonder whether he is doing the right thing and decides to take a resume building class. The teacher advises the class to check their online search pages in order to make sure there are no embarrassing pictures from Facebook when potential employers google their name.
Jo is not on Facebook, so he knows he has nothing to worry about. He has an old LinkedIn page, that he created five years ago when he was unemployed for a couple of months. He found another job very quickly though, and never bothered to update his profile while he was so busy at his new work. But now he has the time and decides to spruce up his online image with a detailed report on his LinkedIn profile about his extensive experience accumulated over the past five years. Jo knows that potential employers and recruiters might look him up online and find his LinkedIn profile.
Jo finally gets around to check his Google search results, anticipating to see his updated LinkedIn profile on top of the list. But instead he sees the two ads, mentioned above, followed by an ad by promising to find Jo Average Jr.’s address, email, phone, family, friends, hobbies, age, you name it.
Jo nervously clicks on, fills in his name, and one click away he is staring at a streetview picture of his home, his street, his entire neighborhood.
His wife’s and three children’s names and ages are also neatly displayed for all to see. For a couple of dollars he, or any complete stranger, can even find out how much money he makes, how many assets he has and how much money he owes.
Jo wonders how come he was never notified by Spokeo, Intelius, or Ussearch that he was going to be included in such directories, and why he was never given a choice whether to be included or not.
He now starts to think: If there are three online directories on the first Google search page, for sure there must be more on the following pages? He googles “online directories” and in a split second the results come up: 121 million search results…
Now he’s cursing out Google, and decides to check out Microsoft’s search engine, Bing. Maybe many employers use Bing.
When he searches his name, the same Intelius and Ussearch ads appear on top of the page.
Right below those two, there is a new link: Jo Average, Jr.
He clicks on the link, and to his utter consternation sees his old profile on LinkedIn, that he created five years ago, when he was unemployed, glaring at him. It makes him look as if he has been unemployed for the last five years. It also looks like Yatedo just copied and pasted his old profile on their site a few years ago and never looked at it again. On the right hand corner, a huge call-to-action window shouts: “This is ME!” , prompting him to claim his profile.
Jo is dumbfounded. He knows he must take action, but has no clue as where he should start. He heard about a company called and checks out the price list: it’s too expensive for someone like Jo Average Jr., especially now that he has lost his job.
Do you have any advice for Jo Average Jr.? Please don’t hesitate to comment.
In the next installment, some legal issues will be highlighted and some practical solutions will be proposed.