I must say, sometimes living in ‘the age of information’ scares the shit out of me.

As per my previous blog, I periodically check what pops up under a Google search of my name, partly to be safe, partly because I’m bored. Now imagine my surprise when tonight I come across a ‘public resource’ site with a 17-page IRS document in pdf form from the foundation that I received a scholarship from in 2004. Not only is my name listed under the amount I was given, along with all the other names of the winners from that year, but ALL OUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS!

This is not something one sees every day. Imagine me a bit freaked.

I quickly shot off an email to the contact person for the website, asking them to please remove this sensitive data right away because it could be harmful not only to me but to everyone else on this list. He got back to me very quickly and blocked out the info on the form, which made me partly happy. But he also suggested that, instead of ‘yelling at strangers’ I should contact the foundation, who sold the information. But did they really?? And why should I be made to feel bad about something so threatening? My SSN is my identity after all, and one has to guard it closely, like one holds their child back from the lion cage. And let me say that I did not speak in capitals, but just had a few exclamation points, which does not mean yelling, but conveys excitement, concern, etc.

Have I experienced not only a breach of security but a breach of email etiquette??

But the night was not over. I decided to get my free yearly credit report (and don’t listen to those dumb commercials, there is only one sight that lets you get your free report and doesn’t charge you, like all the others do) and I found a weird $42 charge from Certegy, a check certification company. Now I can’t tell whether I owe them this money or not, because I was never told about bouncing a check last year in November, because I didn’t. And from what I can tell, people HATE Certegy because they reject checks from people who have lots of money – basically they use algorithms to verify checks, not your actual information.

I don’t know what this thing is, but I want it off my credit report. Call them, you say? Well, if you like being on hold because ‘all lines are busy’ at 12am at night, and never talking to anyone, then that is for you.

Sometimes the world of money and debt and federal information slaps you right in the face, and it stinks. And lets be honest, there is really nothing you can do about it. Except yell at strangers in emails, apparently.

It all makes me miss the days when all I worried about was what to bring to show and tell the next day. But wait – haven’t you heard? Children are now frequent victims of identity theft.

I need a cookie.

I think everyone should make it a practice to google themselves once in awhile, just to see what kinds of things turn up. Of course, this would be much more difficult if your name is John Smith. Fortunately, I seem to be the only person with my exact name in cyberspace.

This brings up the bigger issue of how much people can find out about us just by clicking a mouse. Which becomes even more important when these people are employers, or other judgmental folks.  And one should know if their blog about how much they hate corporate America or how wasted they were Saturday night pops up with a simple search.

But what really scares me is if people are checking credit reports, because, honestly, my credit is not so great. I’m putting myself through college and grad school, so what do they expect? Debt is just a detail. But how much weight are employers really putting into these things? In today’s not-so-lovely, ever slimming job market, can someone’s bad credit or student loans really cause them to lose  possible job? It’s a whole new resume-frontier that you can’t fake, and it frankly a bit unjust. A person is not their credit, and if a late payment on a credit card overrides a college degree with highest honors then there is something wrong with this world.

Sometimes I envy those folks who put all their profiles, etc to private and basically stop all speculating; they achieve some kind of internet mystery. Frankly, I don’t really put anything out there that I would never want anyone to see; doesn’t that go against the web’s grain? If you don’t want your friends to see that you’re bashing them on someone’s wall, maybe you shouldn’t do it. Of course, no one wants their boss to know everything – there’s a professional line there.

Now what was my point here? Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s fun to snoop around on other’s people’s profiles sometimes – you all know you do it. So when someone puts a wall up, it’s annoying – maybe even pretentious?

I suppose I’m going to have to join these people soon though; if I’m a college teacher I can’t let my students see my status update that declares how annoying their paper are. Because facebook is no place for honesty, right?