I was playing Scrabble online, and after saying hello to my opponent over the in-game chat, I asked a common question. "So, where are you from?"
"Pretty sure I'm not going to tell you that one. I know how things go on the Internet," she said.
I was surprised, and a little impressed. Most people don't have a clue about privacy on the Internet. At the same time, giving away your state (the usual answer) isn't usually a danger, since that narrows you down to at the least 500,000 people (hello, Wyoming!). I said something to that effect to her, but there was no immediate response.
It made me curious though. She also had a picture of herself and her full name right there as her profile name. "If you're worried about privacy, why do you have your full name right there?" I asked.
"Do you know how many people don't use their real names?" she said.
Well, no. And I noticed that she didn't actually say that wasn't her real name. It was an uncommon name, but it sounded pretty realistic.
I did a quick Google search of that name, which turned up a bare 46 results. Most of them led back to a single MySpace page, owned by a girl with the same name...and the same person in the profile picture. With all sorts of details about the girl, including her age, occupation, home town, which schools she was attending, and the fact that she was going to be away from home for the weekend visiting family.
As it turns out, her home state was pretty uncommon as well. South Dakota. I felt a little guilty; she was probably right not to give it out. That uncommon state, combined with the fact that her name only turned up one significant person, was pretty compelling.
About that time, she posted another message in the Scrabble chat. Apparently she had thought about what I said, and decided that I was right, the state didn't give away that much. "South Dakota," she had posted.