May 22, 2017

A Not Me

I’ve been having a growing problem over the past couple of years that stems from having a highly common name, and using a highly common email platform. Back when gmail was invite only I created an account based off of my name. Occasionally since then I’d get email that was clearly never intended for me, but for some other S Tyler. A Sharon Tyler might sign up for veterinarian’s news letters accidentally fat fingering my email address instead of hers. Steve Tyler might book tickets to Disney world making a similar mistake sending me a confirmation of his itinerary.

For news letters I unsubscribe myself. Important documents (I once reserved someone’s loan closing docs) I emailed the sender and informed them of their mistake. Usually they’re grateful for being made aware of the mistake. But what do you do when someone creates an account using your contact information? In this increasingly politicized and hostile online world, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that my email address could be associated with a social media account I have no control over. Such is one of the cases I’m dealing with lately. Someone created a snap chat account with my email address and despite my continued attempts to have it removed through customer service, the email address keeps getting associated with the snap chat account!

A common approach I’m seeing online is to lock the other person out of the account and delete it. Technically the account is not mine, even if they signed up using my name. One could interpret this as a violation Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Its doubtful I’d face any serious consequences since there’s no financial ramifications for SnapChat if I were to do this, but I’m too much of a rule follower to risk it. I’d also feel bad if this was some poor kid making an honest mistake (repeatedly). I love my social media accounts. Going over my facebook time line to see all my old favorite photos and read the comments always brightens my day.

I could log in to the account, look up the phone number and send a text asking them to use their email address instead of mine. That wouldn’t destroy the kids’ account, but could still be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Also, it would then expose my phone number to a complete stranger which I’m not sure I want to do. The account is private so I have no idea who is there and how receptive they’d be to being contacted anyway.

For now I keep contacting customer support, and keep asking them to disassociate my email address. Some day I’ll come up with a better strategy for dealing with Not Mes.

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