World Wide-Open Web

November 29, 1999


Even in its younger days, the Web was already invading your privacy. Forbes senior editor Adam Penenberg discovered this himself just before the turn of the millennium when he challenged a private eye to use the internet to dig up as much informatio­n on him as possible—a challenge the gumshoe met with Marlowe-esque enthusiasm, uncovering (among much else) Penenberg’s Social Security number and the balance of his Merrill Lynch cash-management account. “The spread of the Web . . . will make most of the secrets you have more instantly available than ever before, ready to reveal themselves in a few taps on the keyboard,” Penenberg wrote. Paying a detective to dig up details seems pretty quaint now, of course, when tech giants such as Google and Facebook routinely collect our most intimate informatio­n and monetize it.

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