I say it defiantly, in my head, as I google myself online and realize companies have put me on display for public consumption.
Go to Advance Background Checks, Instant Checkmate, Radaris, Intelius and similar online sites and look yourself up. I dare you. Double dog dare you.
What you’ll find is you—on display for the world. Every address you’ve lived at for the past 20 years or so, an aerial view of your current home, a list of relatives, any traffic tickets, etc.
I looked myself up after a Facebook friend talked candidly on her page about her troubles with identity theft. It sounded like hell. And it got me thinking—what’s available about me online?
A lot, as it turns out.
I googled myself and in addition to many of my articles showing up, there were advertising links to sites any Joe Schmo could use to look me up. “Find the truth about Kristine Blenkhorn” trumpeted the Instant Checkmate ad.
You can look anyone up. Your child’s teacher, a neighbor, your local priest.
While helpful, I’m sure, for identifying child predators, not so helpful to little ‘ole me who is trying to keep her identify safe from the lowlife pond scum that would like to steal it.
Thus began my one-woman crusade to “opt out,” as these sites call it. And they don’t make it easy, folks.
I began to fill out the online forms and paper forms necessary to regain control over information that’s mine anyway. That I never granted these companies permission to use. That without my existence, wouldn’t exist.
And no, I’m not bitter. Not at all. I’m sure that little grinding noise you hear is not my teeth.
One company website states I am required to send them a copy of my driver’s license or passport, with my identifying photo and numbers hidden. What?! Yes, to verify I am me.
So let me say it in another way for the uncaffeinated among us: I must send them my info—information they already possess— to keep them from using my info.
Again: I must verify I’m me—safely—to keep them from providing anyone and everyone with a computer from accessing information—unsafely—about me. It’s a virtual Rubik’s cube of illogic, but I plunge ahead.
I scan and send them said ID. They email back that it’s unreadable. And that I need to begin the whole “opt out” process again. Not just correct this one bit by sending them a new scan. Reapply to opt out.
Another site requires me to list every address I’ve had for the past 20 years—information they already have published on their site—to verify I am who I say I am. Really? If I wasn’t, all I’d have to do is go to your site, you nitwits. You’d give it to me, no matter who I was.
I believe another site asked me for three forms of ID, my mother’s maiden name, the names of four relatives, every address at which I’ve ever resided, a biopsy of my liver and one of my children. I’m still trying to figure out how to send them the liver part.
They don’t make it easy purposefully, hoping you’ll bang your head against the wall and give up. Because, of course, if we all did this, they’d have no site. Sounds like nirvana.
By the time I’m done, I’m saying, weakly, “You don’t own me.”
A little voice in my head says, “Or do you?”