Yes, I like batman. Yes, that title might have been weird! However, sometimes you just go with the first thing that comes to mind haha. Now, into the real business…
Have you ever been asked about a person, and decided to search them up on Facebook? Googled a potential employee or partner to see their true character? Experienced someone creeping or impersonating you?
Even better, have you tried creeping on yourself? This is the process of sleuthing, and it can have fascinating results! Personally, I have always been aware of what I put online, and have tried to keep everything suitable for my grandma and more distant cohorts. While I am not perfect in that goal, I was born right as computers, the internet, and the digital age was going full throttle for growth.
For me, I consider anything I post online in any sort of social or media context to be public. Your Facebook privacy? Not incredibly private (they used to reset your setting after every update). Your suuuuuuper secure PC running windows? Let me just run linux from a USB and I can view all of your files. That phone you use with bluetooth to listen to music? Or make payments using NFC? Files can be accessed or device control can be obtained using those services.
The fact is that there will always be faults, glitches, bugs, and loopholes when it comes to technology and online privacy. A famous chinese proverb said “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,’ and it can be applied to online privacy. Don’t let what I said in the previous paragraph scare you. Use that information to become informed, “fool me once,” and take action to be attentive of technology and digital identity.
So take a minute, search for yourself! Try it in different settings (google, duck duck go, private browsing mode), or with different terms (name, name with city, name with occupation, etc…). How was that? Any interesting tidbits that you would prefer not to be there?
For this week I partnered up with another member from our course. We were to sleuth each other, and find out as much as we could from sleuthing (we creeped on each other! haha). I knew that my partner would have a much easier job than me, as I have kept an eye on my search results and have decent control about what is on those top links. To top that off, I have a fairly unique name, and have a huge online presence. For my job, it was a bit harder. The name was more generic, we didn’t share any mutual friends, we are from different provinces, etc…so the search results and social media results were much, much thinner.
However, I did NOT say impossible! At first I found very little, just enough to get started. But after a while of searching I finally got access to their Facebook profile. Their employment was labeled very broadly, and location not specified, so Facebook was not showing them to me in the results. Once I got this though, I was set. Through Facebook and various professional sites, I know that my partner is on the executive for their teaching association, chair or participant in a sub-subcommittee for educational assistants, and also on the board of directors for a childcare organization within their city (way to go!!!). I know they also have a running club at school and go on sprints during the noon hour. They are an Educational Assistant at the school E……Just kidding, you don’t get to know the details!
On the topic of details, after looking into their professional life, I explored the personal life. This part of the experience showed me that sometimes what you post isn’t what you should be worried about, your cohorts and family have an incredible control over your privacy and digital identity. I was able to discover that my partner has 3 children, and the names, genders, and approximate ages (including the exact birth year and details about the youngest’s birth). I also discovered where they used to live before they moved, and information about their family (siblings, mother, father who looks incredibly similar to James Brolin). To make this worst, most of the actual details that I discovered were not from their profile. Their family, comments on profile pictures or cover photos, etc…gave me routes to find information.
Overall, my partner has an excellent digital identity. I did not find any negative stuff about them, just some private information they might not be knowingly putting into the public. This experience showed me that even those who have less digital presence, even those who try to shape their digital identity, you will never have full control. Your digital identity is built up with the news, cohorts, events and organizations, family, social media, and all of the networks you are apart of. After all of that, you finally get your own input through your own profiles and blogs, which means you have a lot of work if you want to actually hide something from Google.
The other thing that this sleuthing experiment showed me: we are all essentially expert creepers in this digital age. We use media and online services so much that we can instantly find information about people just through a few searches. This is why when someone has no digital presence, we find it weird. Now, I challenge you to use these expert skills you have. Take some time in the future, search your name, and work to shape your digital identity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, it just takes some time and effort for the repair, and the simple question of do I really want this on the internet. Good luck sleuthers!