There’s quite a bit of talk lately about how much information the government knows about you.
Turns out it’s a lot.
A lot more than most of us thought.
If you don’t want the government snooping on your phone calls, emails and how many hours you spend playing Angry Birds, there are many ways you can keep your private life private.
Of course, you could disconnect from the world, pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and live off the land. But that is not an option for most of us.
The truth is, there is a lot of information out there about you — and it’s widely available. And not just to the government.
Whether you know it or not (trust me, I do this for a living), you leave a very public trail of information — from the time you are born (birth record) to the time you die (death certificate) and everywhere in-between, including records of any marriages, divorces, school attendance, property purchases, vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, professional licenses, voter registrations, business filings, etc.
The list goes on.
While some of these things may be difficult to avoid (try getting around without a government ID or driver’s license), here are some tips to keep people (like me) from snooping on your personal life.
Limit Your Social Media Posts
People like to post what they ate for lunch on social networks. Frankly, who really cares? I certainly don’t. (Unless I do, of course.)
Your friends might think it’s funny that you are doing keg stands on Facebook, but your future employer may not. You may have personal opinions on gun control, politics, gay marriage or your next-door neighbor, but not everyone needs to know about them.
The simple fact is that much of your private life would (mostly) be private, unless you happened to spread it all over social media.
Don’t Get Arrested
Getting arrested is not a good thing. Not only do you have to go through getting an attorney, going through the court system, etc., but that record, however trivial it may be, will stick with you. Pretty much forever. No matter how small it is.
You see, once you are arrested, this fact becomes a part of a public record in one form or another. Like those mugshot websites that “hold your photo hostage” until you pay them to take it down. And every time you go through a background investigation for whatever reason, you have to explain why you did whatever thing you did.
Don’t Owe People Money
Owing people money gets people mad. Really mad. (Just ask the kid who never paid me back that lunch money in fifth grade.)
People may get mad enough to drag your name through the mud, blast you on social media, stalk you, or maybe even file a judgment or a lawsuit or force you to file for bankruptcy.
Owing people money can haunt you. Forever.
Don’t Get Divorced
So this may be asking too much considering that couples marrying for the first time have about a 50 percent chance of divorcing. If you do get divorced, be civil. Or at least try to. Divorce documents are a treasure trove of information about your personal life and your finances.
The kind of stuff that is better to keep to yourself.
Don’t Lie About Things That Can Be Disputed
Take, for example, a recent case in which a candidate had a stellar resume that included a short stint on Broadway, a college football career, and a degree from a top university. But he also said that he had a job in a “top secret” intelligence division in the U.S. Army.
It all sounded to be too good to be true. And it was – we found out that he was completely lying about his military service. If you are going to lie, don’t lie about things that can be checked.
Don’t Lie, Cheat or Provide Fake Documents
A few years ago, a candidate for a top-level position at an East Coast liquor company claimed to have a degree from a top university. The school verified that the candidate attended the school, but said she never received a degree. When confronted, the candidate supplied a letter from the registrar’s office as “proof” that she had received the degree; but when the registrar’s office was contacted, we learned that the candidate had doctored the letter.
It’s one thing to lie and cheat, but it’s a whole other thing to provide fake documents like letters, degrees or statements. You see, leaving a paper trail gives snoops all kinds of fun things to verify and double-check.
Don’t Piss Off the Wrong People
Enemies are not good. They will do or say anything to mess you up. All you have to do is make one enemy.
They will also sue you — especially the ones who have money. That’s really not good, because that leaves all kinds of documents and a paper trail that anyone can look up.
Don’t Do Stupid Things
“Stupid” is a relative term. What you might think of as stupid might be perfectly normal to someone else.
Just think about it this way: would your grandmother think it was OK if you [insert thing here]?
If the answer is no, it’s probably stupid. Don’t do it.
It may end up on YouTube.