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.
Why is this information available?
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.
What are the threats?
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.
How can I find it?
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.
How do I remove it, and what should I be removing?
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.