I don’t want to shock you here but there are some people in our business who are a little on the shady side. /sarcasm
When a webmaster joins an affiliate program they are often asked for a plethora of information. They say they need to verify your a real person, not just some scam site and for tax purposes.
That all sounds well and good and so unsuspecting webmasters give away all their personal details. They tell their real names, their addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers. All of this information could be really bad if it fell into the wrong hands. But surely reputable companies that you chose to do business with wouldn’t let that happen, right?
Sometimes even the best of companies fall victim to bad employees. Sometimes companies don’t know what is going on behind their backs and in the case of some companies, they don’t have any security protocols in place at all.
In about 1999 the Vivid webmaster database was compromised. While I can’t say for sure how much information was stolen, for sure they got to our names, addresses and emails. Since most likely all of that information was stored together the people who got their hands on the Vivid webmaster database at that time probably also got our phone numbers and social security numbers too. All of our information was quickly sold off and spread through the spammer list world like wildfire and suddenly we were all getting insane amounts of junk mail and our email addresses were being sold off again and again and again.
We were told it was because the server was hacked but the only thing they took was the webmaster database. That totally seems believable right? I mean who wouldn’t want to access the server and get all that free porn, or customer data and credit card numbers. Right? Apparently webmaster’s personal information was ummm more important?
It is more likely however that their webmaster who at the time was a notorious drug addict who soon after landed in rehab, probably hijacked the list behind Vivid’s back and sold it off for drug money. But in the end, I guess we’ll never really know the truth. All we webmasters can say for sure if that our personal and private information was taken and sold off again and again and again. Years later, more than 10 years later in fact, I’m still getting spam from that email address.
But this story isn’t an isolated incident. Vivid Video isn’t the only company who has ever had a bad employee.
Bluebird Films is another great story of data being compromised. When I went to work for them they had ZERO security protocols in place. Your personal and private information was available to every single person who worked there – wide open for anyone to see and quite a few people did. And it got worse … their servers were hacked no less than five times the previous year and that includes the entire customer and webmaster database, WITH credit card numbers, home addresses, email address, phone numbers and whatnot.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you need to think very carefully about who you give out your personal information to.
Let’s look at a current situation – a company like AEBN
They are totally reputable, right?
Well perhaps. But that doesn’t mean they don’t hire employees who are problematic. In fact they currently employ someone who it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we were to find out he hijacked the entire webmaster database and sold it to the highest bidder.
And then all of your personal and private information is out there because of some dickhead employee and there is nothing you can do about it. Your name, your home address, your phone number and even worse, your social security number is being traded or sold to person after person by this guy.
Some might argue, but it wasn’t really AEBN’s fault, it was the jackass who was shady. True. But AEBN hired him in the first place and continued to keep him on their payroll after being witness to his abusive online behavior. Anyone who is an online bully is clearly not someone you would want on your payroll because if they work for you, they represent you, and that means if they are harassing others online or just openly being a dick time and again to people then that makes you look bad.
I get it, it’s fun to be a jackass to people online. That’s why sites like GFY thrive because you can be abusive to others and get away with it. We call those kind of people keyboard warriors. They can get away with bullying other people because they can hide behind the anonymity of their computer. Only some of these people aren’t anonymous. Some of these guys work for companies … well known companies like AEBN.
Their behavior is a direct reflection of your company.
I would personally never do business with AEBN. Not because I have anything against their website or product, but because they hire certain types of people. And I wouldn’t want to risk my money, or my personal information in the hands of those kind of people. I have no problem telling them that either and last night I in fact did tell them just that and their response “He’s just a remote employee”. Ummm okay. Perhaps they don’t realize that the people they hire directly reflect on their companies reputation. If a company hires an employee who is abusive to others online, what does that say about the company itself?
So the whole point of my story here is this …. you need to think carefully before signing up with an affiliate program because once you do they will want a lot of personal information from you. You might also want to consider a series of safeguards for your personal information which includes an alias or company name, a PO box to get your mail instead of your home address and if you are a US webmaster you really want to give them an EIN (employee identification number) instead of your real social security number and always try and use alias emails such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Now when they sell off your email address you will be able to know because they were the only person to have ever had that email address and you can nail them for it. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve caught over the years by doing that one little thing.
None of this may seem important to you right now but trust me when I say, you will give two fucks when you get your identity stolen.
It is your information and therefore your job to protect it. Don’t just give away all of your personal and private details and then hope for the best!