If you’re like most people, you’ve probably Googled yourself at least once. Don’t feel bad: you’re not a narcissist (ahem…unless you are). Understanding what information about you is available online is an essential part of being a responsible adult. That said, there’s a better way to search yourself that can reveal far more than Google, and you may be shocked by what you find.
Understanding Your Digital Footprint
Like it or not, we live in the information age, and that includes information about you. Such information comes from a variety of sources and can appear in a variety of places: social media profiles, census data, government records, etc.
In the case of social media profiles, public posts on forums or comment sections, this information is willingly provided by you (at least it was at the time!) and is tied to either your name or email address/online username. This data is commonly referred to as a “digital footprint.” Think of it as the trail of crumbs you leave behind as you make your way through life online.
Your digital footprint is by its very nature public, and for better or worse can play a big part in strangers forming opinions about you. The first step in managing your online reputation is to understand what exactly “the Internet” knows about you in the first place.
Finding Information That Google Can’t
This is where most people would think to hop on Google and search their name or email address and see what comes up. But there’s a better way,
Dedicated people search engines use sophisticated algorithms to compile huge quantities of people-related data and assemble it into comprehensive, easy-to-read profiles. This includes white pages listings, public records and social network information not easily accessible through a traditional search engine like Google.
How (and Why) to Search Yourself
Some of the information compiled by people search engines, including criminal history, marriage status [*link “How to Find if Someone is Married” article] and property records, are rarely accessible at all through Google, and would generally require you to go directly to a government office or courthouse.
- Current and Former Addresses
- Names of Relatives or Roommates
- Social Media Pics & Profiles (including your embarrassing old MySpace!)
- Court and Arrest Records
- Sex Offender Status
- Marriage Status
- Contact Info
The wealth and depth of information may surprise you.
While running a background check on someone in your life can be a smart way to keep tabs on who you interact with, doing the same for yourself is crucial for understanding what anybody else can find out about you. People search engines do not create any of the data you see: they only aggregate it. Think of them as powerful tools to help you keep on top of your digital footprint so you can better manage your online identity and safely protect you and the ones you love.