I was reading an article yesterday about an individual who was inspired to find out what information about him was online. He searched for his own e-mail address on the search engine Pipl. What he found shocked him. He came across a list that he was on that not only contained his email address, but his password. “That isn’t just my password for Comcast, it’s my password for everything that is not tied to my credit card,” he said in an interview. (Link to Article)
As we get more into social networking, we slowly put more and more pieces of ourselves online. Specialized search engines are making it easier than ever to pull that information together into a highly detailed (and potentially invasive) profile of our virtual lives. The new people-tracking utilities build a highly detailed list about you just from information that you yourself put online. (People Search Engines: They Know Your Dark Secrets)
I did a search for myself and found some interesting things. On one site, not only did it list my name and address, it allowed me to click a link to get an instant map to my house. On another site, it listed my name and also listed the names of my parents and siblings. For $2.00 I could get detailed information about any one of them. I saw my birthday listed and my wish list from Amazon so if someone were looking for information about my interests, there they’d be. You can imagine how that information could be used. Other sites list which schools you’ve attended, what groups you belong to.
Fortunately, you can take steps to limit the information these sites may collect. One way to grab control is to turn the tables and use the new services to search for information on yourself.
For instance, Spokeo lets you see a limited amount of data without subscribing, Pipl and CVGadget are totally free, and Rapleaf offers an open tool to manage your Internet footprint. A couple of other sites to search for your information on are ZabaSearch, Google, Peoplesearchnow.
Many of the services work the way a standard search engine does: If the content disappears from the Web, it also disappears from the search results. That means you need to visit the individual sites connected to your e-mail address and adjust the privacy settings within each one.
Most well-known sites give you the option of making your data private.
People search engines glean their material about you from many well-known sites,including Amazon.com, social networking sites such as Facebook.
You’ll usually need to go within each individual site’s account configuration pages and look for the privacy options to adjust to suit your comfort level.
Here are some places to visit:
- Amazon: Wish Lists are made public by default. To change that setting, go to this page and select the option to sign in. You can then view any Wish Lists associated with your account and designate them as private.
- Facebook: Once signed in, look under the ‘Settings’ tab at the top of the page to find the privacy control panel. Click the Profile option to set parameters regarding who can view your content.
- MySpace: Click the My Account button at the top of the page after logging in, then click Privacy to adjust your settings. Bear in mind that your age and location are typically displayed publicly even if your profile is set as private, as was the case in one of the examples cited in “They Know Your Dark Secrets…And Tell Anyone.” (People Search Engines: Slam the Door).
If you decide to rethink your level of privacy, the most important first step is to search yourself or your family members so that you’ll know exactly which sites’ privacy settings you need to reconfigure.
Ultimately, the power is in your hands. Switch off autopilot and take control.