Lately I’ve been talking with a friend from high school: to be specific, a friend I’ve been attempting to track down for five years. Today he told me that someone else has been looking for me. I didn’t ask who, but when he told me that Google didn’t reveal much, I went to see if Google had obliterated my existence overnight, especially since at the very least my LinkedIn profile has my real name on it, and that hasn’t changed.
Sure enough, not much had changed from the last time I Googled myself awhile back, but this search led to the thought: how easy would it be for someone to find me? Clearly I was able to find my old friend, mostly thanks to the blog he kept when we knew each other and using clues from there. How easy would it be for someone to find me?
The search for my first and last name reveal the following facts:
* my birthday
* my church attendance (I no longer attend, nor am I religious in any way, so this can be misleading to some)
* a letter I wrote to a baseball magazine in 1997
* some high school achievements
* an essay I wrote in my senior year of high school while jointly enrolled at the local college that was published in the English department’s collection of exemplary essays
* the abstract of a research presentation I did on Pluto and Internet drama
* mentions of both of my major math research projects, thus giving a clue of what I majored in
* what I actually majored in (it’s not what anyone I went to high school with expected)
* a NaNo forum post from 2005, where someone quoted something I said elsewhere on the boards and used my full name instead of my NaNo username (not their fault; I think I put my full name instead of Sushi or something like that in the Real Name section), thus showing that I NaNo
* another quote of something I said on a profile of a friend
See? You probably don’t know my real name, and you’re thinking, “What a snorefest.” Most people would give up here. In fact, this person (and my friend) did. I don’t give up that easily; in fact, people have asked me to Google things that they, for reasons unknown to them, can’t find. I usually succeed.
None of these give a direct method of contacting me. There are several indirect methods, some creepier than others. If I were a stranger looking for me, I’d take the easiest route and search for what I said on the NaNo forums. I have posted that quote elsewhere online, and had they done so, they would have found a way to contact me instantly.
That aside, visiting the websites of my majors would also reveal a lot. In fact, right now I’m on the front page of one of them and probably still recognizable. The event that led to that is under there and is a statistically improbable phrase, giving them something to search for. This would lead to my LiveJournal, which leads to ways to contact me.
So why didn’t they find me sooner? They just weren’t Google savvy enough. On the professional side, if there are no ways to contact me directly through just a name search, this could mean that few people who are looking at me for those purposes will take the time to do a deep search. This is a good sign.
Coming up soon: How to Google stalk someone for the powers of good.