Monday, August 13, 2007

Taking yourself off the map

Do you ever get the feeling that the fine folks at Google lead remarkably sheltered lives, and simply don't realize they could get somebody killed or kidnapped by making it easy for just anybody to find someone's house? Sigh. Apparently they've now made it so that if somebody types in your phone number, Google will provide a map to your house, unless you remove your number from the list.

I checked our business and residence numbers. The residence didn't show up (I suspect my husband got us off the list earlier and just didn't mention it). Our business number, on the other hand, had so many wrong addresses attached it wasn't even funny. Some of that is because we've moved the bookstore since we got the phone number. And some is because we've had some sort of phone book curse, that has had us listed wrong in multiple phone books in multiple ways over the past decade or so (including one phone book that put us in the wrong town altogether, which was really a cute mistake, I thought). A funny thing about phone book curses: the wrong listings seem not only to acquire a life of their own, but somehow seem capable of swamping the correct listings. Here's hoping you never get attached to a clerical error that doesn't ever seem to go away no matter what you do. We've reached the point that whenever a new phone book comes we make a game of seeing whether the most recent attempt at correction told hold, or if an old error came back from the dead, or what. (When you don't know whether to laugh or cry you should laugh, right?)

Open letter to present and future historians: Dear Historian, Phone books are another first draft of history. They do not necessarily prove that a business existed when and where the phone book says it did. Trust me on this. Besides the typos, there's the fact that old listings for defunct businesses have been known to hang around, advertising what have become phantoms. I'm sure you can verify this if you apply just a bit of effort. Sincerely, K. Judson.

Anyway, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that what Google and others are doing, in effect placing international bulls'-eyes on people who only wanted local attention, will speed the demise of landlines altogether for private parties. At the very least, I expect fewer and fewer addresses to show up even in local phone books. In the meantime, you just might want to see if you can get yourself delisted.

In a slightly related vein, the other day while I was waiting in line at the bank I was treated to a bank official trying her best to get an ex-hippie to understand that these days it makes sense to not put the driver's license number on checks - that it used to be the in thing, but thanks to a spike in identity thefts it really isn't done anymore. The ex-hippie kept saying that it was so convenient to have it there in case a store clerk asked for it, and the bank official patiently kept trying different ways of explaining that she thought it was a very bad idea. They were still at it when I left, but I think the bank official was beginning to give up.

I can't remember the last time I wrote a check, to be honest with you. For what I do in the way of transactions, cash or plastic work just fine, thanks. Someday maybe I'll learn that newfangled all-electronic stuff... but I doubt I'll ever go back to checks. Time will tell.

Added: My husband says he did delist our personal number at Google maps. There was a several day lag between his filing for delisting, and the actual delisting, but eventually it worked.

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