For the past few months, I’ve been trying to get some stranger to stop adding my email to their Tinder. It’s been annoying, but it’s also taught me about just how much you can find out about a stranger by their misdirected emails. To be clear, I have not been able to rule out malicious intent. For now, though, I’m choosing to view this as a failure of communication for reasons that I’m not going to go into here. Suffice it to say that there have been other misdirected emails.

Because of these emails, I’ve built a whole story in my head about this person. They’re newly single, slightly insecure about their looks, so it’s probably a divorce. They’ve spent a lot of time building community, volunteering. They’ve always had an interest in fashion, so they’ve always cared about their looks, but lately, it’s moved from fashion to more intimate matters. I know their address.

And the thing is, if I was a nasty person, I could utterly destroy this person’s life with the information I have. Obviously I’m not going to, because I’m not that kind of person, in case it needs to be said. I have done my best to purge their information from my life. Should a nastier person manage to get access to my data, the damage would be limited to me. But this does not protect anyone else. 

I have a bone to pick with any service that doesn’t ensure that an email address someone gives them is legit. But until services start treating email like they should, it’s on us to consider the people we trust with it. Make a decision of whether or not they’re really worth the trust. To me, most services are not. And since I’m still on Facebook, I know I’m a bit of a hypocrite in that way.

Of course, there are ways to protect yourself. You can make sure that all your information is correct every time you sign up for a service. Or you can purposely make sure that all your information is incorrect. And you can take care that if you sign up with a service that asks you to confirm your email, that you actually not only enter the correct email but also get that confirmation email. If you don’t, check that email address asap.