Last modified: October 11, 1996 5:00 PM PDT
Private lives online
A security analyst with the National Computer Security Association, Kennedy knew that removing his personal file from the research service, as so many thousands were rushing to do, would be like pulling a needle from a proverbial haystack of information.
That's because Kennedy knows one of the best-kept public secrets around: If you're alive, you're documented. It just so happened that Lexis-Nexis got a lot of publicity for doing what countless companies have been doing for years, providing confidential information to lawyers, investigators, journalists, prospective landlords, and others who have a vested interest in finding out more about you.
"What you perceive as private really isn't private. Everybody needs to redefine what they consider private information," Kennedy said. "Once you start telling people about it, it really isn't private."
Experts say he's right. So-called confidential information is so ubiquitous--recorded everywhere from courts to corporations--that there's no point in trying to eliminate it from any one particular source. Phone companies, credit bureaus, retail outlets, banks, courts, and police all keep records containing everything from your address and Social Security number to shopping preferences, credit history, and family background.
Find out how much|
of your personal information is online
"The Web," said David Sobel, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, "is going to be an incredible new means for collecting new personal information."
The Internet doesn't necessarily mean that more personal information is being collected, at least not yet. But it does often make getting that information a lot easier and faster.