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Surprising information about you is 'out there'

June 6, 2008

by Mark Ollig

The “X-Files” television show ended with these five words: “The truth is out there.”

That’s for sure.

We use the Internet to find information about every subject under the sun.

It is sometimes shocking to realize the amount of information that is stored on the Internet about each of us.

For example, do you sometimes shop online at Amazon.com?

I recently discovered that it too, is a source of information – about us.

Amazon allows a person to set up a reminder list or “wish list” of items you would like to have from their store.

Did you know this list can be seen by anyone else who visits Amazon?

Another interesting fact is a person would not even have to sign-in to Amazon see this information.

I sometimes shop there and I have a few items I keep on a wish list – which I incorrectly assumed was just for my personal reference.

It might be surprising to some of you (it was to me) to know this “wish list” you thought would only be seen by yourself when you were on Amazon is viewable by anyone.

I honestly was unaware this list could be viewed by anyone other than me, because I would normally view this list – which I only regarded as a “reminder” wish list of items I wanted – when I would sign-in to Amazon.com.

As you shop, by clicking the “Add to Wish List” button on the page of any item that you may want to have in the future, it becomes viewable by not only yourself when you come back to shop again (I used it as reference of things I would like to have) but this list also becomes publicly view by others.

To try it for yourself, go to www.amazon.com and click on “gifts and wish lists.” You will see a new box pop up labeled “Find someone’s wish list” (this is not seen when you initially get to Amazon.com).

In this box you can type in any person’s name, even just a last name or any e-mail address of anyone who has an account on Amazon.

A list of names or just the individual name will appear.

Some of the names will show the city and state they live in.

Click on any name and you will see their individual wish list and full description of the items they have bookmarked.

For a test, feel free to enter my name and see my current wish list.

Although the information I have listed is mostly electronics and books, it might have included other items I would not want to have viewable by the general public.

Did I also mention the items you have ‘purchased’ on Amazon can also be looked at by the general public?

This just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

Any of your “wish list” or “purchased” items can be seen by anyone – unless you have marked them “private” while you were signed into or “logged on” (for us older web surfers) to Amazon.

If you do not want your Amazon wish list to be available to the general public (which it happens to be by default), you need to mark it “private” by going into the wish list and on the right side of the page, click the “make this private” button.

Amazon also gives us the option to have our past purchases be made “private” and your “wish list” to be made public, which is what I have done.

I was surprised at the number of individual wish lists and purchased items I could see.

It would be interesting to find out how many people with Amazon accounts were unaware of how their personal wish lists along with past purchases could be seen by the general public.

I understand how some people might want to have their Amazon wish list public – for baby showers, bridal registries or for their friends to see for gift ideas.

To keep the public from viewing your wish list and past purchases, you need to have the “privacy” activation turned on.

This might be something to check out for all of you Amazon online shoppers out there who may not have been aware of this.

We truly need to be careful about the information – under our personal name or e-mail addresses – we are entering out there on the Internet at these online stores, web sites and web blogs.

This information can, most of the time, be accessed by anyone who wants to know more about us. Remember, this information stays online for a long time.

We should not allow ourselves to become complacent.

Let us not forget – the Internet is becoming connected to everything.

The truth is out there.