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Google Street View Raises Privacy Concerns Photo: bhollar.

Google Street View Raises Privacy Concerns

Hugh Pickens writes

"More than twice as many Americans googled themselves in 2006 than five years previous — and many are googling their friends and romantic interests as well,[1] according to a report released recently by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The survey shows that the percentage of US adult Internet users who have looked for information about themselves through Google or another search engine has more than doubled in the past five years[2] (pdf) from 22 percent in August, 2001 to 47 percent in December, 2006. Only 3 percent of internet self-googlers say they Google themselves regularly, 22 percent say 'every once in a while,' and three-quarters say they have googled themselves once or twice. The original report, 'Digital Footprints,' contains many more interesting observations[3] (pdf) about internet privacy."



There were over 150 comments posted on this topic[1] on Slashdot.

Recommended Reading

New York Times "Googling Oneself Is More Popular" December 16, 2007.

Although men and women equally searched for online information about themselves, women were slightly more likely to look up information about someone they are dating. In many cases, the search is innocuous, done to find someone's contact information. But a third of those who have conducted searches on others have looked for public records, such as bankruptcies and divorce proceedings. A similar number have searched for someone else's photo. Pew also found that teens were more likely than adults to restrict who can see their profiles at an online hangout like Facebook or News Corp.'s MySpace, contrary to conventional wisdom. Teens are more comfortable with the applications in some ways, (but) I also think they have their parents and teachers telling them to be very careful about what they post and who they share it with, Madden said.

Pew Internet. "Digital Footprints: Online identity management and search in the age of transparency" December 16, 2007.

"Unlike footprints left in the sand at the beach, our online data trails often stick around long after the tide has gone out. And as more internet users have become comfortable with the idea of authoring and posting content online, they have also become more aware of the information that remains connected to their name online."
"In 1994, a Harris Interactive telephone survey found that 65% of American adults said it is “extremely important” to not be monitored at work. A survey fielded one week after 9/11 found that percentage had dropped to 40% of adults, while 42% expressed that view in 2003.1 The Pew Internet Project now finds in a similar survey that just 28% of adults say it is “very important” to not be monitored at work."

"Virtuality and its Discontents" by Sherry Turkle. 1995.

"People have known for decades that each time they place an order from a mail-order catalogue or contribute to a political cause, they are adding information to a database. ... People are isolated in their reflections about their electronic personae. On the Internet, such matters are more likely to find a collective voice."[2] "Maximize Your Visibility and Monitor Your Reputation" by David Teten, Donna Fisher and Scott Allen

So what do you do if you find some dirt on yourself? If it's downright inaccurate or slanderous, you can, of course, try to contact the site and have them remove it. If, on the other hand, it's a matter of public record, like the malpractice suits above, then you need some damage control. You may just want to provide an ample supply of good information about you well-positioned in the search engines, and the other can just languish in obscurity. Or, you may want to make sure people hear it from you first, or that you at least have an answer about it on your site to "set the record straight". If the issue is major enough, you may want to hire a professional PR person to handle it, but it is something you can take care of yourself, as well, if you're on a limited budget.[3]

ZDNet "Why you should Google yourself--and often" by Robert Vamosi. August 9, 2006.

Go hack yourself: To see what the Internet knows about you, start by going to the Google site or by using the Google toolbar. Next, either type your name in quotations or, for a more refined search, type intext: (intext with a colon) immediately followed by your name in quotes. Now type your address or phone number, and Google may turn up a church or a social group directory listing. If this doesn't surprise or outrage you, type into Google your social security number or credit card numbers.[4]

CNN Money. "You're only as good as Google says you are" by Joe Light. December 24, 2007.

But if you Google "Scott Burkett," eight of the top 10 results, and most of the next 20, point to the 38-year-old chief executive of PlayMotion, a small video-game company. That's no coincidence. Over the past decade, video-game Scott has carefully nurtured his digital dossier. Why bother? "Everyone is going to see this stuff," says Burkett. "It's not just customers and investors who look you up. It's everyone." Purchase your first and last name as a Web address. Even if you don't plan to set up a Web site now, it's a good idea to park it - will let you reserve a dotcom name for $9.99 a year. Don't let someone beat you to it. Buying on the secondary market can be expensive.[5]

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