Why You Should Not Have A Public Profile Photo

As of this writing, there are zero available public photos of me. You cannot google my name and come up with an accurate image of my likeness. The only ones that appear are not of me. You might instead find a Hong Kong investor, for example, or any of several others around the world who happen to share my name. None of them look anything like me, nor are they related to me in any way.

I am quite gloatingly proud of this fact. Being unknowable in the information age is difficult, and it took some work to achieve my status as the invisible man.

Why in the era of social media am I so protective of my visage? In 2020 it is common to meticulously document your life on platforms like Instagram and Tik-Tok. I used to have accounts on some of these platforms, but no longer. I am blissfully invisible to the internet, and I love it. It is all part of my privacy philosophy.

My philosophy is this: I want to have as much control over my public information as possible. I am aware that every bit of information about me is a potential tool for someone to do me harm, and the single most dangerous bit of information is my location and what I look like.

As a basic first requirements for privacy, you never want to make the following information public*:

  • Your home address.
  • Your likeness.

With these two pieces of information, anyone in the world can find you, stalk you, and do whatever they’d like to you. So called “people search” sites scrape public records such as voter registrations to compile databases of addresses, so it is often trivial to find the home address of anyone you want, even celebrities and politicians. I have gone to great lengths to remove my information from these sites.

It may seem paranoid to worry about this – after all, I’m a law abiding citizen, aren’t I? – but sadly this is a very real threat in today’s fracturing society. Online bullying and harassment are increasingly common. We must take a defensive stance.

That said, there are some downsides to being unfindable online. Namely, you may end up looking more suspicious for your lack of public information. It’s become common for someone to “stalk” a date or a job applicant before meeting them in person, and if nothing turns up on that search, it may well be assumed that you’re not a real person, or even that you’re hiding something. In fact, this problem is the very reason I originally created this website – to prove my existence in the absence of any other digital presence.

I feel much safer knowing that someone I do not know cannot locate me. And with my own personal site, I can control what information is available about me, showcase my professional accomplishments, some of my interests, and also control the context in which it appears.

*: The only people I would exempt from this rule are those whose profession requires them to be in the public eye. Public speakers or C-suite business leaders, for example, can’t very well hide their likeness from search engines, since they are likely to appear blurbed in articles or prominently displayed on a corporate website. Until I decide to run for office or take a CTO job, I’ll happily remain faceless.