Quick show of hands: how many of you have an unlisted phone number?
Especially in today’s world of cellphones, the notion of a “phone book” that is printed on paper and delivered to your house is almost laughable. People purposefully have their phone numbers listed in a phone book as part of being neighborly and accessible, but with the Do Not Call list and robocalls and other phone annoyances, more and more people are choosing to go off the grid (for personal or professional reasons).
With a cell phone, your number is pretty much already unlisted. Nobody should be using your cell number unless you provided it to them.
And so what’s the big deal if someone had your number anyway?
If someone had only your number but had no idea who you were, you’d feel pretty safe, right?
But that’s not really the case when the Internet is involved.
Researchers at Stanford University have been able to take a RANDOM SELECTION OF PHONE NUMBERS AND IDENTIFY WHO THOSE PEOPLE ARE as much as 91% of the time using commonly-available Internet searches.
They used a combination of phone numbers, text messages, and social network information to tie individual phone records (phone numbers and length of call) to individuals. In other words, they were trying to prove what the NSA was claiming wasn’t possible. And they did it.
- 27% of names were found using only Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Google Places.
- 60% of names were identified when just a little bit of manpower was exerted to only use Google searches…. but combining in Yelp, Facebook, and Google Places again — they were at 73% of names identified.
- Throwing in some money? 74% matches were made when searching only a fee-based people database.
- Combining in the fee-based service with the free search tools used earlier? That’s where the researchers got to 91% of identified people.
So don’t feel like you’re completely safe and anonymous, hiding behind your cellphone number and thinking that nobody can find you.
They can… and they will.