Thursday, December 20, 2012

Illusions of Privacy

I received a letter addressed to people who don't live in my house. Not that unusual: the U.S. Postal Service is generous enough to make sure plenty of people who used to live here still receive mail at this address.

The name on this mail was new, and it looked like a Christmas card. No last name on the return address, which wasn't insurmountable, but I'd had a long day and I wanted to take the path of least resistance.

I searched the web for the names of the recipients and what I think is their city and state. Bingo: right at the top of the list is someone on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Blogger, Pinterest and Google+ whose name matches one of the recipients, with a mention of the other addressee in the text below the link.

I visited the blog and found an e-mail address. I also found a photo of a woman large with child, comments about her continuing pregnancy and details about a recent visit to the obstetrician. Her blog posts contain quite a few photos and lots of details about her health, her alma mater, her husband — plenty of personal information, which appears to be the nature of her blog.

I sent her an e-mail, asking if there's an address to which I can send this mis-addressed correspondence.

Her response was hesitant. Yes, she has friends by the name and at the address I mentioned in my e-mail. She's contacted them to find out if they've sent something. In the meantime, she writes, obviously I can understand why she doesn't tell me where she lives.

Actually, no, I don't understand: I never asked where she lived. I asked to what address she wanted me to send her card. She could have given me any mailing address — her husband's office, a friend's address, general delivery. I'd have been glad to leave it on my porch for her, if that was her druthers. All I wanted to do was give her a card intended for her and her husband. It is, after all, Christmas.

I returned it to sender.

She told anyone with Internet access the status of her cervix, but she considered her address private. What a crazy world.

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