One of my jobs is a task called “prospect research.” A friend of mine in the non-profit biz calls it “star f*cking.” It works like this:
- An individual is identified, by me or someone else, as someone who should be asked to make a major gift to the organization. What counts as “major” varies by the size of the organization in question, but generally we are talking about people with $bucks$.
- How many $bucks$ do they have and how much will they donate? Those are the questions I am supposed to answer.
- I use database tools that give me access to all sorts of information as well as creative application of google technology.
- I find out where they live, how much they paid for their house, to whom they have donated in the past and how much they gave, which political candidates or campaigns they have supported, where they work, how much they probably earn, what boards they serve on, what their interests are, their marriage and divorce history, the names and ages of their children, and all sorts of random facts about them.
By the time I’m done, I feel like I should have a cigarette. And I don’t even smoke. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.
This is why I spill my guts on Facebook without worrying too much about my so-called privacy. There’s no such thing.
Now, I only use the white-hat research techniques. Everything I uncover is in the public realm. I have neither the skill nor the inclination to hack into someone’s bank accounts or swipe the nude pictures off of their iPhones. But even keeping it legal, I can find out an awful lot.
But don’t worry; your personal data is safe with me.