By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
The Internet offers a wealth of information on nearly any topic imaginable. While this is usually great news for those conducting an online search, this source of public information can backfire on you as well. If you’ve never conducted a Google search on yourself, you may be surprised at the intimate results that you find. You don’t have to actively cultivate an online presence to have one. Check out your information now to see how much of your life is exposed.
Important People Search This Info
In order to fully understand the importance of your search results, you need to think about who may be looking at this information. Jealous exes and curious friends aren’t the only people looking up your information. It’s become common practice for potential employers to Google your name. Look at the results through the eyes of someone who’s seeking a smart and reliable employee. Potential clients may look you up as well. Will the results make them want to give you their business?
Any time you fill out an application for something, there’s the potential for the recipient to run a search on you. If you’re looking to rent a home, the landlord may look you up to determine whether your family is the right fit for that home. Information that seemed harmless when you were a college student could damage your prospects as you’re building your adult life.
Your Details Are For Sale
Many companies collect and sell personal information. These data brokers are creating detailed profiles that are available for purchase. This may include your:
- Contact information
- Education level
- Marriage and divorce information
- Salary information
- Recent purchase information
Much of this information is sold to marketers who build a profile based on information like the purchases tracked via a store’s loyalty card, or a map of the stores you visit most frequently. However, there are also companies that collect public records like marriage licenses and sell your personal details to anyone willing to pay up.
Your Family Gets Hit, Too
You’re not the only one impacted by the personal information available through Google. You’re likely tied to everyone in your family. The details that are available on you may lead easily to information on your children. If your social media profiles are public and you post the right collection of details, someone could figure out where your kids go to school. They may get personal details about your spouse, siblings, parents, and even friends.
This works both ways, so the information your friends and family members post may lead to you as well. Do an Internet search on your spouse, children, and other close relatives to find out what the Internet reveals about them as well.
Info Hides Under More than Your Name
Googling your name is just the beginning of your search for identifying online information. Your details may also hide under your phone number, home address, email address, or user names. You should search all these terms to get a comprehensive picture of what’s available.
Your IP address can give away personal details as well, illuminating where you live, work, and connect to public WiFi. To protect this data, always connect to the Internet through a virtual private network (VPN) like Hotspot Shield.
Visuals Are Out There, Too
Written documents aren’t the only source of information about you. Perform an image search to see what pictures are lurking on the Internet with your identity attached. Even if your name isn’t included directly in the image tags, a photo may surface when you search your name. It’s not uncommon for others to post photos that you’re in, so you could hit on a wealth of pictures just waiting for the right search.
Many pictures are harmless, but you should check out what sites these pictures are posted on. Are they associated with a blog or website that you don’t want to have connections to? What about those pictures that aren’t so innocent? Images of you partying with friends or acting irresponsibly in any way can cast a poor light on your image.
You Have Control of Your Identity
It’s easy to experience a sense of helplessness as you contemplate the sheer volume of information available on the Internet. You’re not completely out of control, though. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that information must be removed or blocked when the provider is notified of claimed infringement. There are even steps you can take to make public government information more difficult to find. You can often file a request to have data removed or sensitive information redacted.
The government is not actively protecting your public records for you, so it’s important to be proactive in these matters. Seek out all the available information on the Internet, contact the publisher or other source of the information, and follow procedures for having the information removed.
Performing regular searches on your personal information is an important way to stay on top of your privacy and protection. Taking just a few moments to see what’s out there may alert you to a significant hole in your online security.