Sunday, February 8, 2009

How Big is Your Internet Footprints?

A while ago, for one reason or another I remembered a good old friend from my college years in Illiois, US which I haven't heard for more than five years. We now lives at the opposite ends of the earth. He stayed in the US after graduating, while I went back to my home country, Indonesia.

Time passed, life got me busy, hence I no longer kept in touch with him. His old email was no longer active and we didn't have many mutual friends. So when I wanted to find out news about him, I was at lost. What do you do then when you're in a situation like this?

Well, if you use Facebook (or any other social networking sites), most likely that would be the first place to go. That I did. But nop, he wasn't there. The next logical thing would be to go to uncle Google. I did that too. Voila, after a few searches I found some info about him. Now I know that instead of Facebook he uses LinkedIn. I found out know where he works, his gmail email address, and things he did for college project assigments. Search a little more, I found out that last year he had married his longtime girlfriend (they hooked up since the college days. Dude, what took you so long...). That's not it, I even found that just recently, they had a baby daughter. Had I searched deeper, probably I could find his home address, phone number, and his shoe number (ok, probably not that one).

Pretty scary, huh?! His personal information is all exposed on the Internet. In the old days, probably you need to be a cop or a private investigator to obtain that kind of information. Now, a Google skill is all you need.

What about yourself? If you have used Internet for a while and you have been active (use a lot of web services, join social networks, forum discussions, etc), chances are your personal information are all over the web. You may think that some of the websites that you use have somehow violated your privacy. But the fact is, in most cases it is you who expose to the world about yourself. Just think of what others can see in your profile in your favorite social network.

I heard now it's not uncommon for employers to find out as much as they can about their prospective employees via Internet. The Internet can tell them what you don't mention in your CV. It's easier for the employer to Google for your information than ask your reference giver. If you have been behaving "nicely", than you have nothing to worry about. But if you've been "bad", well, your Internet profile is like a criminal record which is difficult to erase. Perhaps now you should be more careful about what kind of footprint you left in the Internet. In my case, it's already to late, my footprints are all over the place....