Etiquette FAIL in the Age of Google

On Saturday I did keep my appointment with Mr. Creepy whose car I hit, and I left unharmed. Once I had bought the part for his car, I said “So where exactly did you get that old address anyway? It’s not on my driver’s license and it was a bit creepy to have you suddenly bringing that up on the phone.”

What I got was not terribly satisfactory. It started with “like I said, I thought I saw it on your driver’s license” and had a bit of “you blog” and then there was the word “resume.”

Ah yes. Surely that was it, an old resume left inadvertently on one of my websites.

Nope. Doesn’t exist.

I did finally found my name in conjunction with that address, in the Huffington Post’s Fundrace 2008 section of their website that identifies donors to that presidential campaign. There’s a little blue donkey sitting on my old apartment building on the map. It’s the third result on one particular version of my name.

I’m going to assume that’s where he found it, because the alternatives are pretty farfetched and unsettling. I’m still quite disturbed by the whole thing, but for a while I was hard pressed to explain why. I think I’ve narrowed it down to these issues:

  1. On the day I hit the car, I pulled out my driver’s license and showed it to him, offering to let him copy down the information. He declined. Then he Googled me. That feels sneaky.
  2. When I asked him about where he got the information the first time, he lied, saying he got it off my driver’s license.
  3. Men should know that women generally feel less safe when their identifying information is suddenly mentioned by a man who has not been directly given that information, and this guy didn’t seem to have a clue.

If I had been the one whose car got hit, would I have Googled the person? Absolutely. I would have written down the driver’s license information, then gone straight home and turned on the computer. Who knows how old that driver’s license was? And if I needed to rebudget for next month because the offending vehicle’s driver was only in town for 48 hours from their new home in Bangladesh and thus unlikely to show up next week as agreed with my money, I would prefer to know sooner rather than later. But for pete’s sake, if that person did continue to return phone calls and make appointments as promised, I would not suddenly bust out with “Oh, and how is your daughter, is her broken leg all healed up?”

I once read an article, written about the time that Caller ID was becoming prevalent, that said you should never answer the phone with “Hi Mom” when your mom called because it was rude to reveal that you were watching your incoming calls and deciding which ones to take. That suggestion struck me as silly, but I do think there is some value in knowing when to pretend you do NOT have certain information. I have a very public web presence, and I expect that people have access to information about me. If you read my blog, and you start the conversation with “I read your blog,” then there’s all KINDS of stuff that you could conceivably bring up that would be fair game. If you’re in a commercial transaction with me, though, even though you have access to that information, it’s really none of your business.

And if you feel you absolutely must bring it up, just say “I was nervous about the fact that a stranger hit my car, so I just did a few Google searches to see if you even lived in town.” That’s far less objectionable than pretending you didn’t go looking.

3 thoughts on “Etiquette FAIL in the Age of Google

  1. Rafiq of the Many

    First, the guy does sounds uber creepy. However, When you post things about your life on teh interwebz you do actually make it everybodies business. You in fact have become a public person. You share your opinions and life with the public, and are actively selling a product (your views).

    This new hyper-connected society we live in, any information about yourself that is “out there” is unfortunately fair game, like it or not.

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