Privacy and the internet

Privacy is a topic I think about a lot.  My job is to use data to understand behaviour, and often that data is from websites.  So it might seem a little odd that this site contains not only my name but also my email, phone number and address - more than enough information to generally make my life a pain, should you be that way inclined.  I've even had phone calls from friends saying 'did you realise your phone number is on the internet, you should get it off so as to avoid annoying phone calls'.

When I first started using the internet I posted anonymously.  It quickly became clear though that if I wanted my arguments to be taken seriously I had to attach my name to them.  So about twenty years ago I stopped being anonymous and started using the internet in such a way as my posts were easily traceable back to me.

This had some interesting effects - one was that a long time ago I realised everything I wrote would be archived forever, which made me substantially more deliberate about what I wrote.  For instance in this post from 1994 I am writing something which, while I might look back and cringe at my naievity, is at least fairly well written and trying to be helpful.

Similarly posting my email address to the internet means I get a lot of spam.  I've long ago stopped counting for various reasons such as intermediate SMTP servers acting as filters, but I still get around a thousand a day.  However all that's really meant is gmail has had lots of training on blocking spam from my inbox - I only actually see about one spam a week.  Before gmail I used crm114 for the same purpose with a higher accuracy.  
That's the downside of putting your address out there, but what about the upside? Anybody who finds what I say interesting can send me an email and I've had hundreds of great conversations as a result.  I also try to keep the same email address so people can email me using the same contact details I've had for the last 15 years.  That means if someone is visiting the country again or similar they can trivially get in touch.

My phone is the same.  Since putting my phone number on the internet I've had zero nuisance phone calls and three calls from people that wouldn't have been able to find me if it wasn't for the information being easily accessed.

Finally have you ever thought how hard it is to keep that information completely off the internet?  Many people put their CV on the internet somewhere and most CVs have their phone number in them, so a search for "Firstanme Lastname" CV is likely to turn up most people's phone numbers with a bit of effort.  If all you're succeeding at doing is making it a bit harder for people to find your details then think about this:  are automated spam robots going to work harder to search for your details, or old friends that are paying a flying visit to the city you're in?  If you can't win, you may as well get as many benefits as possible from losing.