Your Personal Information Is a Google Search Away. Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy

Your Personal Information Is A Google Search Away

In today’s world of Internet connectivity and social media, a surprisingly large amount of your personal information can be found through a simple Google search of your name.

This has many implications, but these implications are mainly seen in the areas of security and your reputation. Imagine that every drunk tweet, silly profile on a website you forgot about or damning photograph is available to potential bosses, romantic partners and even cyber criminals.

Because they are. Your personal information is a Google search away. Let’s talk about what you can do about it.

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On the Internet there are two types of websites: ones that are indexed by search engines and ones that aren’t. Social media outlets and many web communities are Googleable, but certain sites, like private community forums, won’t leave much to the public eye.

The ones you’re worried about fall into the former category. With information like your real, full name or your email address, people can find many sites and services that you use. Depending on the security settings of those sites and services, they may be able to browse through things you’ve said and posted.

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People find your information quite often. Applying for a job interview means people might look for you on sites like Facebook or Google. The same applies to meeting new people, maybe even someone you like.

However, it can also apply to malicious parties. People trying to break into your accounts may attempt to find personally identifiable information on you through your social media activity which they can then use to perform social engineering on support agents or guess passwords/security questions for your online accounts.

They can also potentially find things like your phone number or your home address. People can be malicious with the information they find and use it to defame you for something you said years ago. You may even end up a victim of something like swatting where people find out your address and call the local police department on you.

So yeah, the threats are very real.

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Search for it yourself! Search for things like your full name, your phone number and your email address. The results you get for this information will show where it’s available on the public web. Also, cover your bases: be sure to search for yourself on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, which is where people are most likely to run a search for you first.

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Once you’ve located your personal information online, it’s time to comb through and remove anything that you could probably do without. This includes:

  • Usage of your full name/phone number/email address where unnecessary. In my case my email address doesn’t link to anything embarrassing, while my full name simply shows my work on MakeTechEasier and Greenlit Gaming.
  • Personal photos and posts. Make these private or exclusive to friends, but keep them out of the public eye.
  • Embarrassing past posts. It’s okay to reflect on silly things you said or did a few years ago and decide to remove it. You don’t want someone digging up dirt on you, do you?
  • Unused accounts. If you don’t use the account anymore, there’s no reason to keep it. Use that site to clear your profile and delete your account.

Overall, it’s important to mind what you put online. What you put online doesn’t go away on its own, and you can find a lot of embarrassing or worrying things. Be careful when uploading files to sites like Imgur or Pastebin, too – if these files contain personal information, they can end up saved and on some random person’s computer.

Your personal information is a Google search away, but with the right practices, you won’t be vulnerable to security issues or any embarrassments. Let us know below in the comments if this article has helped you.

7 comments

  1. A very simplistic approach. In the age of the Internet, there is no privacy. The major problem ARE NOT the databases you can access (social networks) but the databases you CANNOT access. Every store chain you ever shopped in, various governmental agencies (no, I do not mean the NSA), your cable and phone provider, Smart TV manufacturers, just to name a few. There are thousands of databases that we do not know about where our personal and private data is stored. Every doctor and hospital you ever visited has your complete personal and medical data. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) is supposed to prevent the dissemination of medical records, yet somehow those records find their way unto the Internet and into the hands of people who should not have access to those records.

    • dragonmouth – You are spot on! This will only get worst with the Internet Of Things or IOT.

    • This article is discussing what people can find out in the public web, not government surveillance.

      • I specifically excluded government surveillance. While they collect all data on everybody, their databases are relatively secure.

        What I am referring to is tax records (income, property, sales), criminal records, health clinic records, welfare records and many other records of your interaction with your federal, state, county and local governments. When I worked for the county government’s IT department, I had access to all that data and more. If I had larceny in my heart, I could have made a lot of money.

        I was going to say that the dissemination and security/privacy of medical data is pretty well controlled by HIPAA. But consider this. Recently I had to go to one of the better known, large US hospitals for some specialized treatment. During the admission process, I filled out endless forms and questionnaires, including home phone number and the phone number of an emergency contact which is my wife. Couple of years ago my daughter went to the ER of the same hospital. For both me and my daughter, this is not our local hospital. It is a hospital of convenience. Last week, some doctor at this hospital needed to contact me. So he called MY DAUGHTER’S cell phone and left a message. That phone call was a serious violation of the provisions of HIPAA. Even if my daughter put me down as an emergency contact during her visit to the ER, there should have been NO correlation made between her case and mine. The privacy of her medical records and the privacy of my medical records was breached.

        What you write about in your article (social networks) is not even the tip of the iceberg. It is only a small ice floe in the middle of an ocean full of icebergs. Those icebergs represent databases owned by private companies that have absolutely no need, or right, to collect, store and sell our data. Did you ever ask yourself why you receives the junk mail (ads) that you receive?

        BTW Christopher – no matter how hard you try to delete or clean data from public files, computers and the Internet NEVER forget. The only way to protect your personal data is to never provide it. Once it is in one database, it is out of your control.

  2. People only seem to be afraid of what our government can learn about you. Personally, I find it much creepier that Facebook and Google know so much more. How many government people are you afraid of seeing your data. The group within these federal offices is relatively small. How many people does Google and FB hire? How many of those people have access to your data. That is scary. Now add their top management. All receive enormous stock options for performance. These people would sell out their grandmother for more stock. Do you believe they will respect your privacy or sell you to the highest bidder? It is almost like slave trading. Someone is sure to comment that you do not have to use their services. I do not. However, it is well know they track everyone, not just their users. The only option is to stop using the WWW. But wait. both companies are tracking you when you sign up for Obamacare. They are so ingrained into federal websites that they are capturing your social security number and every other detail you are entering for health insurance. So by federal mandate to have health care, you have lost every ounce of privacy to these Nazi companies. Do you trust them enough you would do this willingly if they asked?

  3. You’ve included a big header in the article “How do I remove it, and what should I be removing?” You then go on to answer the second part “what” but totally ignore the first part “how”. Why?

  4. Well , you cannot protect anything when you surf the Net , no matter if you are using secure connection or not. The ugly truth is there is no security at all. The hole internet is a military construction project for a “secure” way to transmit information to another party or parties without loosing any..!! The sentence ” without loosing any…” is the secure part of the hole story. That means the information will reach the other party for sure but it doesn’t care for the one’s in the middle.! So when the years pasted “they” have developed new encryptions for the people in the middle..!! Who are really “they”????
    We must understand that the people or companies who have developed encryptions can override them in a blink of an eye.!!!!!! But what about the hardware??? ohhhh here is the big game playing..!! Some of the chips , central processing units or DSP’s have directives in printed in to them which we do not know what they actually do.! I bet these functions or subroutines are spying routines and can be activated by simple or complex algorithms issued from the internet or your phone company. There is not only the software but the hardware as well.!
    Someone will actually say that I am lucky , I am using open source O.S. on my laptop and I do not have to worry about privacy. WRONG , so WRONG … of course he is more secure because he can actually view the whole code and change it if he likes but tell me this please : WHO ACTUALLY IS GOING TO DO THIS NOW DAYS??? Even if someone has already done this (which for me is impossible to view the entire kernel …how about every add-on or program done by others ???) it is impossible to build his own chip.!
    So there is a lot of money spend on security ( Viruses and Anti-Viruses programs as well) and it is a profit which actually gives a lot of fruits..!! On the other hand a lot of companies on-line or not spending thousands of dollars on security and anti-viruses programs.
    The information sells a lot now days but a secure information sells much more …a lot more..!!

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