Who are you online?

You may be surprised to discover what “Googling” your name might unveil. If you’ve never tried it, schedule an appointment with yourself to get it done ASAP — not for curiosity’s sake but rather to control the results. In fact, make that appointment an annual event. Internet content is an ever-changing landscape.

Smith or Cumberbatch?

If your name is not particularly common, the first few results may reveal your phone number, current and past addresses, possible relatives, and assorted bits of personal information, including but not limited to criminal records.

Conversely, if your name is as common as Chris Smith, try adding your middle name, current location, schools, and employers to filter out irrelevant Chris Smith pages.  

Easier search alternatives than Google
Websites such Pipl, Cubib and Family Tree Now can make your search easier, but be aware that information on these and other sites tend to be less accurate.

Why search yourself?
You need to know what information about you is available online. Whether applying for graduate school or a new job, protecting yourself from cybercriminals, or simply trying to keep your private life free from prying eyes, take time to clean up your digital persona. Delete whatever private or negative data you can and build up your online profile to focus on your positive qualities, images and achievements.

If you have social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or Instagram:

  • Review and edit your data and privacy settings to secure your Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
  • Research all information collected, shared or posted about you from the people and organizations you have affiliations with.
  • Consider what impact that data could have on you, your family, school, or employer. Does your digital footprint match what you want others to know and think about you?  

Knowledge is power
Knowing what personal information is public will help you understand how anyone can access your information and use it to your advantage or disadvantage. For example, a cybercriminal can gather your basic information and call you, posing to be your bank’s friendly (or hostile) customer service representative. Should this happen to you, hang up and call your bank using a number you know and trust to verify the caller. You are your best data-privacy advocate, so know where your personal data resides!

How to remove your personal information from internet-search results

If you find personal online information that you want erased from internet-search results, here are a few remedial approaches:

  • Request to have your name and information removed via the search site’s Contact Us page.
  • Sign up for a service that removes personal information from public sites. Doing this will remove most search results about you.
  • Delete or deactivate accounts such as social media, shopping or web-service accounts. A significant amount of the information about you found online comes from websites where you post the information yourself, which is then sourced to people-search sites like Pipl.

NOTE: If you have online shopping accounts, never save your credit card information to their sites. Websites get hacked, so don’t put your credit card information at risk.