Where to Find Your Personal Info Online
"What I didn't know, was how much of all of our information is literally there for anyone to see just by going to one Website," Rachael says. "Phone number, your age, your address, occupation, relationship status ... right down to things like astrological signs!" Online expert Mario Armstrong says these sites pull together public information that you can use to search for old friends and family, and he’s giving us the scoop on how the sites work!
How do they get your info?
"It's all legal information, first and foremost, because they are using legal public data that already exists - so personal property records, business records," Mario explains. "It used to take private investigators months or years to compile all of this information and now you can get it in a couple of clicks."
Can you remove your information from these sites?
"You have to scroll down to the bottom [of the site] and find the little fine print and it will say privacy," Mario says. "You can click the privacy link and it will show you how you can remove your name from it. Here's the thing though, you're only removing your information from that one site; you're not removing it from all of those public records." Mario adds that if you really are fearful or worried and want to get a handle on your information, there are companies that charge for a service, like ReputationDefender.com, that can help clean it up.
Which sites are doing this?
Spokeo.com and ZabaSearch.com work like Google search engines for searching personal information. You can also share more details about your life with friends and family through location-based social networking sites like Loopt.com. "You take your mobile phone and you check in, whether it's at a restaurant or a movie theater," Mario explains. "When I came to New York, I checked in at the New York Sports Club. So I was working out, and that let people know where I was at that given time. Other people that are following me can find that out and also see what my pattern is."
Another popular site, FourSquare.com, uses such information for some friendly competition among friends - you check in from different locations and earn points for repeat visits to businesses and stores. "You can become the mayor of a location if you frequent that location quite often," Mario says. "You might get discounts or prizes - very clever marketing!"
How do these sites affect the workplace? "Getunvarnished.com is a new site that really allows you to spill the beans on your co-workers, your employers," Mario explains. "It's an anonymous posting, you can't take it down, so if someone starts to type something about me ... it's going online about my professional experience." These comments could help you get a better idea of your reputation at work and could be used by potential employers. "Recruiters are also looking at it like, 'Maybe this person isn't the right fit for this organization.' If you see 20 reviews and they all are from different people and they kind of skew a certain way, maybe they are telling you something that is legit about that person." Still, Mario says it's another example of why everyone should be vigilant about their information online. "It's yours; it's who you are!"
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