Sunday, June 7, 2015

Curmudgeon's Corner: Giving "deeply intimate" info to Facebook.

Jim Holmes | CC 2.0 | 
I'm back on the East Coast as of late last night. (No further word on the day job. Maybe this week.)

I'm grateful to my friends at Southwest Airlines, who once again set up my boarding pass with TSA PreCheck -- which meant that I was able to sail through airport security without either undressing or unpacking. Eventually, I'm sure, Southwest will quit giving me the status for free, and then I'll have to pay the $85 to the U.S. Transportation and Safety Administration in order to enjoy the privilege every time I fly for the next five years. But it would be worth it. It almost makes flying the way it used to be.

So anyway, I had a pleasant flight home, and then walked into (vulgarity alert!) a shitstorm.

I wrote a post for Indies Unlimited this week about how to get a verified Facebook page. The post went live on Thursday, and The Passive Voice picked it up today. Facebook has had this feature for about two years. A lot of celebrities, corporations, and government institutions have gone for the little blue check mark that tells all of Facebook that their page is the real deal -- not a parody site or some other fakery.

This is for a business page, mind you. You can't get verification for a personal timeline.

For verification of an individual's business page, Facebook requires that you submit a copy of one of three documents: your driver's license OR your passport OR your birth certificate. (For a corporation, they want a copy of your articles of incorporation.) So I put that info in my post.

You would have thought I was directing people into the ninth circle of hell.

"Identity theft!" they cried. One commenter who claims to be a lawyer (but who uses more all-caps and exclamation points than any lawyer I've ever met in real life) said I'd have to be "FOOLISH" to give "such deeply intimate personal information" to Facebook.

Deeply intimate....? It's my driver's license. What can anybody do with my driver's license? Look up my record of traffic tickets? Get into bars? Sure, it's got an ugly photo of me, and my address (which anybody with a little Google-fu can get pretty easily elsewhere). But the license number isn't connected with any of my financial or health records.

Neither is my passport number. Plus, US passports now feature an electronic chip embedded in the back. The number's not going to be useful without that chip.

And freaking out about a birth certificate is just laughable. It's a public record, folks. Anybody can look it up.

What a criminal wants is your financial info: your Social Security number, your credit card numbers, your bank account information. Sure, I suppose a crook could go to the trouble of lifting your driver's license, replacing your photo and signature with their own (good luck with that with a Virginia license), and apply for credit under your name. But why bother? Wouldn't it be easier to just skim your credit card number from an ATM or an online transaction?

But it's the paranoia that gets me. A sense of fear has permeated so much of our lives since 9/11, making us second-guess everything from Facebook to online shopping to military exercises to, yes, airport security. We've become a country where it makes sense to pay the government almost a hundred bucks for the privilege of keeping our shoes and belts on before we get on a plane.

I swore I wasn't going to get into politics on this blog, so I'll stop here. Just...please, folks, for the love of the gods, think before you freak out.

These moments of deeply intimate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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