Issue 19

Privacy As Part Of Self-Defense

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Self-defense has many layers.  The more layers you have, the less likely you are to be harmed.  Think of your self-defense plans as an onion - you have to keep peeling layers until you get to the middle - and it's not pleasant getting there!

Most people think of self-defense strictly in terms of physically defending themselves.  People get training (thank you!) in pepper spray, stun guns and firearms.  This is all critically important, but having to physically defend yourself is the very LAST option you want to take.

You want to have a level of awareness that keeps you out of harm's way.  Your personal privacy is one of the keys to success.

A few Newsletter Issues ago, we talked about Stalkers.  They're unsavory, potentially dangerous people.  They can use free tools - primarily found on the Internet - to dig deeper and deeper into your life.

I'd like you to do something:  I want you to do a 1-hour mini-background check on yourself.  You will need nothing more than a pad of paper, a computer and an Internet connection.  For 9 out of 10 people, this is going to scare the hell out of you.

You're going to pretend you're stalking yourself(!) and only have your name and the city where you live.  Go to the following five sites and key in your full name.  Put it in quotes so that the search engines focus on your exact name.  For instance, if your name is William Tell, key in "William Tell".  Also do variations of your name.  In our example, William would also search, "Bill Tell", Willy Tell", "Billy Tell", etc.

Write down any information that matches your name and city.  That means phone numbers, addresses, places of employment, professional and private club memberships, schools attended, web sites owned.

From one or more of these sites, you'll gleen information that will lead elsewhere.  For instance, many business associations put the names of their members and their private email addresses for contact.  Many also memorialize birthdays, anniversaries, spouses names and place of work, children names and schools they attend (proud parents!), notable family members, age, other club affiliations, hobbies, charities, etc.

In our example, let's say I find that William is a member of the fictional Royal Order of the Musk Ox.  I go to their website (every organization now has one), enter William's name in the Search Box, and find a newsletter article about how William's child was awarded a scholarship from the Knights of Columbus.  I now know he has at least one child, where they go to school, and his probable religion.  I can follow-up on that later.  

The "Events" page published his wedding anniversary, so I now know he's married, and probably now have his wife's name.  I can check her out, too.

"Contacts" gives his email address as ''.  I now know that he has his own personal website that is probably teeming with more personal information.  Most frighteningly, if I go to '' and do a 'who is' search on his website name, I will most likely also have his full home address and phone number.

If you notice, I haven't even touched on any of the social networking sites like FaceBook, MySpace and the like, or online resume databases.

Scared yet?

You should be.  You need to remember that once something hits the Internet, it's there forever.  YOU are responsible for managing your personal information and your privacy.  YOU need to ensure that the information you provide doesn't allow someone to more easily peel your self-defense onion.

Safety Tips:  Set up a personal email account with one of the free, major providers - Gmail, Yahoo, etc.  Only give the most minimal information, and use that email address whenever you need to give an address that may end up all over the Internet. 

Whenever you provide someone with personal information, think to yourself, "Will this give information on my life that I don't want a stranger knowing about?"

Next Issue:  Caught Off Guard

Bison Risk Management Associates is a Northern California-based company providing Personal Safety and Emergency Preparedness training, workshops and consulting for individuals, businesses and organizations.

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