I recently did some work for the University, for which it was taking a very long time for my pay to arrive (apparently this isn’t unusual). I contacted the department responsible and they insisted that they had paid me over three weeks ago, and that I should check my records. Well, obviously I had checked my records or I wouldn’t have contacted them about the absence of pay. In response, I sent them my two latest bank statements to prove that the money hadn’t arrived in my account, and I realised just how much you can tell about me from that documentation. The recipient now knows some pretty innocuous stuff about my shopping habits (I hadn’t shopped anywhere particularly “interesting” in the last month, but, um, I do occasionally).But they also know a ton of other stuff about me, too:
  • My full name, address and bank details, duh
  • Who my landlord is, and by extension a rough idea of what sort of accommodation I live in
  • Where I go to eat and drink
  • The location of many of the places I frequent – shops, post offices, transport locations
  • That I use the post office frequently
  • Where I work
  • People I know – due to them sending me money
  • That I’m a member of certain clubs and societies, including a political party
  • Who provides my utilities
  • That I order taxis fairly often
  • Details of loan repayments and who/what they are for
  • Information on a couple of significant purchases
  • How well I manage my finances generally

Well, all of that stuff is pretty personal, and it feels weird giving out something so risky in order to access what I’m owed.  I have no reason to believe the information won’t be used responsibly, but it’s really important to remember the amount of data that we leave behind.  It can be misused or used for good.  And while we often think of slip-ups on social media as being the biggie for embarrassment by exposure, there’s so much more that people could uncover if they know where to start digging.  You say that you may have nothing to hide, but it really depends on the intention of the discoverer.  I’m sure you could see that the above 28-day snapshot is a stalker’s paradise (yes, I have had problems with this before).  One of my next posts will explore the issues surrounding public profiles, social media, and generally being visible.

(Oh, the University had made a clerical error and I wasn’t just being impatient.  Makes me feel a bit better for having divulged my inner financial secrets)

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