October 4th, 2005

Extreme close up.

Google can be scary...

I know this isn't new news, but I still find it interesting. So I was checking Match.com before heading home (yes, I have an account there), and there was a profile of someone who seemed rather interesting. She went to WPI, lives in Worcester, etc. Anyway, I idly entered the handle she used on Match into Google - which had a couple of hits. One to a forum where she'd posted looking for roommates, and included her AOL handle. Another for a roommates service where she has a listing - which has a map. Using the AOL handle (slightly different) gets more hits. And knowing she went to WPI made it easy to get more hits, find her legal name, her current employer, etc. I mean *trivially* easy - one search. I stopped there because I started feeling creepy and decided my fascination didn't need satisfaction, it just felt like I was prying into someone's life uninvited.

Now, I live pretty much wide open, even though I have already had a stalker and wouldn't want to repeat that, so I don't even try to make this stuff hard to find. I'm MegaZone pretty much everywhere, and my home and work info is all over the net. But it is darkly fascinating how simple it is to find out a lot from just a couple of crumbs of data and human behavior.

And since I gave her the URL to this LJ in the email I sent, she's probably reading this and deciding I'm psycho or something. I considered emailing her about it, but couldn't think of anyway to say "BTW, I Googled you and found out a lot of stuff you probably would be uncomfortable with me knowing already" - without, you know, making her profoundly uncomfortable.

At least I'm a White Hat - maybe a little dingy and gray in places, but still basically white. :-)

Still, overall, fascinating. I mean, just about everyone I know, myself included, will Google a job applicant before an interview. And it is common to Google someone before dating them now. I gave up on trying to keep things private a long time ago because it is nigh-impossible, but I do feel for those who either don't realize how powerful the tools are (or how much info can be out there), or who try to keep things private and get caught in the info web anyway.

Well, that's my thought of the moment...
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