Activists harass White House officials and senators as they eat dinner at restaurants. Another senator was recently stalked into the ladies’ room, where her pursuers shouted derision at her stall. Many other politicians have suffered protest demonstrations at their homes.
Now that they’re beleaguered, this may be the perfect time to convince lawmakers to act to protect Americans’ most personal information: their home address and phone number.
Type your name into a search engine. Odds are, a few of the results will include private companies that reveal your home address or part thereof, your phone number or part thereof, employment and education history, along with information about “known associates” like your friends and family members. For a fee, these personal search services offer to fill in the gaps with data culled from public records such as those of the Department of Motor Vehicles, marriage records, voter registration rolls and consumer credit reports.
Easy access to mountains of personal data is such a gold mine for identity thieves, stalkers and other predators that women’s shelters spend much of their time helping their clients to navigate convoluted state-run programs which allow victims of abuse to replace their home addresses with P.O. boxes in public databases like those run by the DMV. Trying to disappear from the Internet is an uphill battle. Millions of Americans report having been stalked.