As America enters its second year of the pandemic, social isolation, financial hardship, and political polarization have manifested themselves in a variety of negative ways. While civil unrest and spikes in street crime have received substantial media coverage, a lesser known phenomenon has plagued both government and business leaders.
Activists, frustrated individuals, and disgruntled current and former employees are seeking out the personal contact information of CEOs, local officials, and even heads of government agencies to harass, intimidate, or communicate threats. Perhaps not surprisingly, these bad actors are turning to the internet as their primary tool to locate the home address, cell phone number, and other details of adversaries.
These intrusions of privacy often lead to paranoia, legal bills, bodyguards, and even criminal investigations. What if these unwanted communications could be prevented? What if a public figure’s personal details could be removed from the internet?
The Danger of Data
Data has become an extraordinarily valuable commodity, and in a country like the United States that prides itself on transparency, there are entire industries that exist to exploit our lack of robust privacy laws. Data brokers, for instance, earn billions every year collecting consumer data and reselling it to a wide spectrum of buyers.
While the intent of many organizations is simply to purchase this data as part of efforts to grow a customer base, one of the more obscure use cases for exploiting consumer data is to operate dozens of people search websites that create biographical reports on nearly every individual living in the United States. At little to no cost, any user with an internet connection can potentially discover where an executive lives, their personal email address, the names of their spouse and children, and other details that nobody wants circulating online. This is in addition to sensitive details that executives and their families may inadvertently disclose through social media, property records, and other aspects of their digital footprint.
Fortunately, there are options to help reduce one’s online presence. By enlisting a third party to conduct a comprehensive assessment of their personal information available on the internet, those seeking to help keep their private lives private can lessen the likelihood of receiving unwanted letters, phone calls, text messages, and emails from strangers.
This process notably includes the removal of records online while also disconnecting the data sources that supply them. In addition, tailored analysis, coaching, and online monitoring can assist individuals to stay ahead of new threats, particularly during periods of intense media scrutiny.
When reviewing options on how to handle a threatening communication, it is important to keep in mind that there is more that can be done from both a reactive and proactive front than most realize. Investigating the credibility of the threat is common sense, but another priority should be to help ensure that the incident does not happen again by making it as difficult as possible for a stranger to obtain our personal contact information. Regardless of our occupation or role in society, we are all entitled to a basic level of privacy.
By: Dennis Lawrence