Today's issue deals with an aspect of Internet privacy that many subscribers have told us they find very scary. We'll look at the claim that Google has implemented a new feature that allows you to type in a telephone number, hit enter, and get back the person's home address along with a map to their home.
We'll give you the real scoop on this Internet privacy issue -- and what you can do about it...
Internet Privacy: Can You Get a Map to a Person's Home By Entering Their Phone Number in Google?
Since Internet privacy concerns are so important to our subscribers, we decided to focus this issue on a topic that's making the rounds right now -- and that's really scaring a lot of people.
Here's one of the chain letters going around on this topic:
--- Begin Chain Letter ---
Google has implemented a new feature wherein you can type someone's telephone number into the search bar and hit enter and then you will be given a map to their house.
Everyone should be aware of this!
Type your home telephone number into Google's search bar & click the search button... MapQuest returns with a physical location of your phone number.
People could use this feature to locate your home address, and receive explicit directions on how to get there from anywhere in the country.
You can remove your name off this database... [Etc.]
--- End Chain Letter ---
So, is this true?
Yes, most of it is true.
You can, in fact, type a phone number into Google's search box and you will often get back the name of the person and the address associated with the phone number for most phone numbers.
You can then click onto the link to the associated map from Yahoo! Maps or MapQuest, which does give you a map, as well as driving directions, to that address.
This is not, however, a new Google feature -- it has been available for a couple of years.
Google does let you opt out of their phone book, and it's very simple to do.
So what should you do?
Obviously, that's up to you.
However, we recommend that you at least type all your phone numbers into Google and at least see what information is displayed.
Not all phone numbers are included. For example, most (but not all) unpublished numbers are excluded in the Google directory.
Next, if you want to opt out, simply click on the link that says 'Phonebook results for (123) 456-7890' (but of course use your own phone number).
Then, fill out the form.
Google says it will take 48 hours. We opted our phone numbers out and it was completed within 48 hours.
It's important to realize, however, that this does not remove all your info from the Internet.
Google has simply combined two readily available Internet services -- reverse lookup and mapping and driving directions -- into one location.
To put this in some perspective: unless you have an unlisted number or you omit your physical address from your phone listings (which we believe is a good practice), your address is currently publicly available to anyone who visits the library (in addition to online phonebooks). And, the AAA will prepare detailed maps to any address.
We highly recommend that you take Internet privacy issues very seriously. However, we recommend you don't panic.
We suggest you think about the consequences before you give out private information. Consider an unlisted phone number or removing your address from your listing. Opt out for privacy reasons when it makes sense to you.
For more suggestions to help safeguard your Internet privacy, we recommend you click here.
We wish you an excellent -- and safe -- week.