Almost everyone these days is concerned about online privacy and protecting their personal data. Yet, we often forget that there are other ways bad guys and nosy neighbors can learn all about us and our families. This article, adapted from an article I wrote in 2018, reveals one such way. It is presented as "food for thought" as you decide for yourself what to publicly reveal, or not, about yourself and your family.
By Tim Gamble
The vehicle you drive reveals something about your economic status, of course, but it is likely also revealing to the general public a HUGE amount of personal details about yourself and your family, without you even realizing it.
How do the bad guys get our personal information? The answer is we give it to them, most often without realizing it. For one example of how we might give away our information, take a look at the back-end of the cars in the next parking lot you visit. Chances are that most are covered with bumper stickers, window decals, family stick figures, parking passes, and car magnets that reveal a lot of information to nosy neighbors and potential bad guys.
Consider those family stick figures that are so popular today. Folks, justifiably proud of their families, put them on their back windows as representations of their family. But think about what it potentially reveals to bad guys: the number of family members, their sex and approximate ages, even what pets you have. Many of these stick figures often also show the interests of the family: Dad holding a fishing rod, Mom swinging a tennis racket, a young boy holding a baseball bat, an older girl wearing a cheerleader outfit. And look, the family has two cats, but no dog. The bad guys now have a real good idea of the make up of that family, including many of their interests.
But it doesn't stop there. That parking sticker reveals where you work. This bumper sticker reveals where you attend church (which, in turn, reveals your religious beliefs). Another bumper sticker reveals where your honor student attends school (which, in turn, reveals the general location of where you live). That Bass Masters window decal (along with the stick figure of Dad holding the fishing rod) shows that Dad is really into fishing. Favorite sports teams, causes we support, what groups we belong to, and other interests can also be revealed. Quite a database of private information to put on public display without a second thought.
Bumper stickers and window decals can also reveal political affiliation and ideology, even who we voted for in the last election. Or who we plan to vote for in the next. Pro-life? Pro-Gun? Pro-Trump? Liberals are getting triggered just reading your car in the parking lot. And, thanks to those bumper stickers and parking permits, they now know exactly where you work and where your kids go to school. Think about that.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone. A quick glance at the back of my vehicle reveals a NRA sticker and a GOA sticker, broadcasting to the world that I support the Second Amendment, and am most likely a gun owner and a conservative. The "Freedom From Government" bumper sticker pretty much confirms me as very conservative politically. I even have a "Survival Resources" sticker, revealing the fact that I am a survivalist. And the Alumni Association decal reveals my education level, and from what college I graduated. Quite a profile can be built on me by glancing at my vehicle's back end.
What do your vehicles say about you and your family? Is it really safe to reveal that information, especially considering today's wokeness, cancel culture, and how angry and hateful much of our society has become?
Tim, are you really saying we shouldn't have any stickers or decals on our cars? Nope. I'm not saying that at all. What I am saying is that we need to be mindful of what information we are giving away without realizing it. Bad guys notice what you reveal, as do nosy neighbors. It is up to you to decide how much is too much too reveal for you and your family.
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