While at my son’s birthday party this past weekend, my brother-in-law brought up a subject I’d never broached before. He talked about Googling himself, or more specifically his wife Googled him. His point was to tell about how he was a registered voter in Florida when, although he did once live in Florida, he hadn’t registered to vote until after leaving the state. He also went on to talk about the political party he was registered under and how that wasn’t the party he preferred. Since that wasn’t something I found important, and I’m not much of a political person, I didn’t immediately see how valuable this information was. That was until I really gave it some thought.
Being a frugal-minded mother of three, I thought about the possible impact this information could have on someone’s wallet. Curious, I wanted to know how much information was out there about me, so I Googled myself and was happy to find that there wasn’t a whole lot. I guess being an introvert has finally paid off. But I could see the possible ramifications of this information being so readily available to anyone who cares to know. Here are a few reasons I’ve thought of for why you should Google yourself.
To know what is out there about you.
When I Googled my husband by entering his name and the state we live in, his mother’s home phone number and our old home phone number popped up, as well as our current address and his parent’s current address. Call me paranoid, but the idea of just anyone knowing where we live is somewhat disheartening. I reassured myself that being listed in the phonebook, back in the day of phonebooks, provided the same information. The only difference was that you had to be in the same city to have access to that phonebook. Now, anyone anywhere has access to that information.
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To find out if there have been any scams done in your name.
I know it seems unlikely, but identity theft isn’t limited to money (credit cards and bank info). I could see that money would be the main reason for someone to steal your identity, but think about this. With your name, date of birth, and address, scammers can potentially open accounts in your name or use your information for their own benefit.
My brother-in-law added to his story about his voting status by adding a story about how a warrant had been issued in his name because a ticket had been written in his name for running a red light, and he’d never paid it. The issue my brother-in-law had with this situation was that he was in the military stationed in Korea when he was supposedly running the stop sign in Alabama. It was likely that the sign-runner merely had found my brother-in-law’s information and used it to get out of a ticket or there was some mix up with the system. Something as innocent as a number being entered incorrectly might have been the culprit, but it was a nuisance just the same. Could you imagine being arrested for not paying a ticket you never knew existed? Or, having to pay a fine to keep from being arrested because your information was given by someone else? Or, finding out someone stole your identity and committed a crime?
Your information could be used is by future employers.
According to Monster.com, 77 percent of companies research their potential employees using Google or other search engines. Knowing what could be found during these searches will give you an advantage to answering any questions that may arise because of it. The information out there could potentially mean the difference not only in getting a job but in getting the salary you want. The same information could be used when determining a promotion as well. Most workplaces are competitive. Knowing what’s out there and doing your best to limit anything unnecessarily bad, could help skyrocket you to the front of the line when it comes to opportunities for advancement.
While it’s not certain you could remove any negative information from all search engines, you could counteract that negative info with some positive information. Say, for instance, posting to social media about the volunteer work you’ve been doing and other good deeds might sway an employer to overlook a post involving too much tequila (not that I would know anything about that.)
Potential significant others will undoubtedly Google you as well, unless they’ve been living under a rock for the last decade.
In which case, I would say that they’re not viable dating material. You could do better. If the nasty details of your last break up are plastered all over social media, it might send someone who’s interested in you running for the hills to avoid the drama, or worse, it might make someone addicted to the drama more interested in you.
Know your reputation.
While it’s unlikely you’ll be running for office, a large percentage of people belong to memberships where an application process is needed to join. Whether you’re running for city council or PTA President, the potential of being Googled is out there. (Don’t roll your eyes. Those PTA moms are harsh.)
In conclusion, after thinking about all the possible good, but mostly bad, things that could come from my information being out there for the world to find, I’m considering the purchase of a bunker in Idaho. Just kidding. The internet is a wonderful thing, bringing people ever closer. Just be sure of what information you post about yourself. As I’ve told my teenage daughter time and again, once the information is out there, there’s no controlling what is done with it. So be careful.