For the record…

The only publicly-aired complaint about OpenCorporations came last night on Compass in a comment from Tim Banks, who said, commenting on the availability of his home address:

I just don’t think under privacy laws that that should be something that’s out there. Unfortunately with this economy there tends to be a lot of people showing up at your door.

For the record, should you be one of the downtrodden who might seek financial assistance from Mr. Banks, there are a variety of ways of finding his home address; perhaps the simplest way is to look it up in the telephone book.

There are many completely valid reasons for debating the merits of OpenCorporations; being uncomfortable with the “release” of information that has always been available, both through the Corporate Register and otherwise, probably isn’t one of the better ones.

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Jane's picture
Jane on December 11, 2008 - 02:35

I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I think the closing down of OpenCorporations is deplorable, but there are circumstances in which privacy concerns are worth considering.

Think of the case of someone who has carefully hidden the location of her home from a former stalker or vindictive ex or harassing family member for years, opting for unlisted numbers, carefully telling the people she knows never to reveal her address. Imagine she registers a home-based business on forms that obviously require her home address, without realizing how easily searchable the corporate register is now that information is on-line. Only a few years ago, someone would have to know she had a business, know her business name, request and then physically search through the data. Now, all her personal information pops up on Google in no time. One mis-step after years of being sure not to publish private information in telephone books or anywhere else, and she’s only a click away.

This is no reason to limit the publication or accessibility of information. Instead of dismissing this concern, though, I think people who fill out forms that will make their personal information immediately accessible in this information age need to be reminded really clearly just how easy it will be to find them. Change has come so swiftly. Personally, I’m grateful for initiatives like OpenCorporations that make issues of access to personal information so much more transparent — perhaps it will help people who need to protect their privacy for genuine reasons to avoid a mis-step.

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