Big data from the web? What can possibly go wrong?

This IT pilot fish has his own personal domain name, and has his email system set up so that no message is bounced -- if it's not addressed to a legitimate in-box, it's routed to a special mailbox that gets reviewed frequently.

"We started getting email addressed to 'Barney' at 'Curbside Burner Services,' located somewhere in New England," says fish. "With a few quick searches, I found the business in several online directories with that user name but using our domain name. They didn't have their own website that I could find.

"OK, no big deal -- someone wanted to look bigger than they were, picked a reasonable domain name, and then either never registered it or found out we already had it. This was a small business that likely didn't have robust IT staffing -- just a family member or tech-savvy friend."

Then fish gets a letter at his home address, which is also the address that shows up in WHOIS searches of the domain name registry. But while the snail mail is addressed to fish's name, it also has "Curbside Burner Services" as the company name.

And what's inside the envelope? An offer for fish to upgrade his broadband:

According to our records, your home-based business is now eligible for Internet from [CABLE BUSINESS DIVISION] to complement your [CABLE HOME DIVISION] services. Having a separate, business grade Internet connection can help you be more productive. That's because you'll have bandwidth that's dedicated for your business. Plus when you choose [CABLE BUSINESS DIVISION] Internet, you can add a separate business phone line for just $29.95 more per month.

OK, fish figures, the cable company grabbed an email address from one of the web directories that lists Barney's business, grabbed the domain name, matched that to the WHOIS records to get the postal address, and matched that to a directory of residential properties, or possibly their customer list.

It's really just data analytics gone off the rails because of questionable data -- no big deal, right?

Well, maybe. "I now worry that I'll be getting postal-mail offers for various services oriented towards the home heating business," fish says. "I worry that the cable company will try to claim I'm using my home connections for business purposes and force me to pay more.

"And I guess I should be glad that Barney's business isn't something politically incorrect, like a hunting safari operator or porn merchant, where the cable company or other vendors might not want to provide services -- or I might be doxed or have protesters show up outside my home."

Sharky always files the identifying details off your true tale of IT life. So send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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