I woke up at 2:30 a.m. earlier this week to the sound of my ringing phone.
Sleepily answering it, I heard a computerized voice call me out by name: "You, Dylan, are a frightfully decadent nose picker and a miserable orgasm-faking orgy of indecency."
I called the number back the next day to figure out what was going on.
It turns out that I had been pranked by Roger Pincombe, a reader who saw a post I had written about a service you can use to remove some of your personal information from the Internet. I learned the hard way that a lot of mine is still out there.
We actually had a nice chat after that. It turns out that Pincombe is a developer who makes his living by traveling around the country to compete in hackathons, putting together applications in a brief time frame where a panel of judges awards cash prizes.
At a Georgia hackathon called Hacklanta, Pincombe built NotSoPrivate.net, a service that "lets users enter simple, seemingly harmless information like their email address, Twitter handle, or phone number. It then extrapolates that information, pulling from a variety of different sources...to present to the user a complete picture of their privacy situation...or lack thereof." You can read Pincombe's own explanation of the service here.
NotSoPrivate won first place. And if you take it for a test drive, you'll see why -- it works well. Entering nothing more than my Twitter username, the service correctly returned my phone number, personal email address, and other details I'd like to think were less accessible.
Pincombe emphasized that he's not some privacy expert, nor is he usually one for pulling pranks (the robot-voice phone call was from Insultron, another one of his projects). NotSoPrivate simply exists for people to reevaluate the scope of their exposed personal information, which is exactly what I did after talking to him.
My thanks to Roger for the wake-up call.