Your Privacy Online & Reverse Lookup

If you don’t think privacy as we know it is dead, guess again. When I worked at the newspaper, the editorial department’s library had a few volumes of a strange directory called the criss cross.

These directories were bound volumes of a huge database of addresses and phone numbers. They were arranged by addresses, residential and business alphabetically.
I remember thinking these books are kind of neat.

Most folks never knew about them. Mostly cops, investigators and people who made their living being be nosey knew of their existence. In fact, those “Reverse Look Up” directories were their bibles.

Ever wonder how a reporter is able to track down a nosey neighbor to get the 411 about someone they’re writing about, especially someone uncooperative? They certainly don’t have the authority that law enforcement does.

Here’s a typical scenario. You’re on your way home and all of a sudden, you see the ubiquitous yellow tape draped across your street. No one is going in or out. The cops tell you it’s a crime scene.

How would a reporter get info to write a story? Most often, the public information officer who is the liaison between the police and the media gives only vague information.

So the reporter figures out the hundred block, count the number of houses and enter the address then viola! they get the phone number of the neighbor who may or may not know a thing. At least they have more to go on if not a quotable source.

Since fewer and fewer of us know our neighbors, getting someone to agree to be quoted becomes easier.

About a decade has passed since I used that directory. Today because of what Google, Yahoo and other powerful search engines are doing, there is an online version.

Type in an address. Try your own and see if your phone number comes up.

If you have an unlisted number, it probably won’t. But there are lots of websites that will charge you for info which is supposedly public information. So what’s a “regular” person to do?

Next time you’re at the grocery store and you obediently swipe that laminated card with a bar code, ask yourself if why someone somewhere is storing all this raw data.

Weigh the supposedly savings you are getting against someone knowing a little bit more about your shopping habits.

Classic saying, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”