Search Can Be Your Enemy

CIO.com features this column about how the reach of search engines shatters the myth of “security through obscurity”:

A month or so ago, I was on the phone with Leonard Fuld, who’s known for his work in competitive intelligence, about Google searches I could run to try to find juicy bits of information. Picking on a huge, U.S.-based firm that’s had some financial trouble of late, Fuld suggested searching the Web for Excel spreadsheets that contained this company’s name and something about “finances.”

Later that day…I found a file from a small job-networking group that just didn’t seem like it should be public. It had information about 300 or so executives, some of whom had worked for the company Fuld mentioned. The document didn’t include their names but it had enough information about titles and past work history that someone could figure out their names. It also included the status of their job hunting—whether they were only networking or “actively searching” for new jobs. It wasn’t exactly the formula for Coke, but it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that people would want made public, either.

…The problem with the super-connected, Web-centered world we live in is that we have made it easier to share information than to share it right. We’ve made it easier to post information on websites than to take it down. We’ve made it easier to open online accounts than to close them. We’ve made it easier to reveal our mother’s maiden names, our elementary schools, our first pets, our favorite color or our childhood street than to keep track of who knows what information and how long it will stay on servers located who knows where. We’ve made it easier to be fast than good.

[via Pogo Was Right (my new favorite site)]

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