What Can People Find Out About Your Life Online?
Publicly accessible information is readily available today. That includes current and former addresses, civil and criminal records, information about family members, property ownership, vehicle registration details, lists of neighbors, any schools you went to, and more.
You can also find records of divorce, birth, and marriage online. You can find someone’s date of birth and the names of their parents. Your mother’s maiden name is no secret.
Data brokers can provide information about approximate dates of birth, email addresses, and even phone numbers. Here’s what else people can find out about you online.
People can find out if you have paid your property taxes because this information is public record. So is your real estate’s appraisal value. Technically, it’s even possible to see if someone has taken out a mortgage loan because the loan provider files the respective document, but payment status details are protected.
Can you find criminal records online? Generally, yes, because most court proceedings are public in the US. Criminal proceedings are made public to ensure accountability. The media and the general public are allowed to see justice at work. This means anyone can visit a court or state agency website and check if someone has a criminal record.
An exception involves records that have been expunged (sealed). Most states let people with criminal records ask courts to seal certain convictions.
Usually, only government officials have full access to court databases, FBI records, and state criminal records.
Social Media Information
People can copy and share anything you post online, even if you send it in a “secure” direct message. When Elon Musk bought Twitter, he found that the government could intercept direct messages, and this came as a shock even to him.
Most social media will ask you to create an account with a lot of personal details. You might be asked to provide education and employment history, an email address, a city or state, or a phone number. Everything you provide on social networks puts you at risk of social engineering or identity theft. Thieves can use your information to take over your accounts, take out loans in your name, etc.
Some people’s public profiles share their religious or political views. Others put up their relationship status and other potentially sensitive details. There might be information about business competitors, friends, acquaintances, etc. Public posts can damage one’s education or career prospects and professional reputation. Sharing that you’re about to go on a long vacation tells burglars that you’ll be away from home and reveals good financial status, which can provoke envy.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough when considering what people can find out about you online, many social media let other people share information about you. This includes tagging other people in videos, pictures, etc.
Usually, social media offer security and privacy settings that give you some control over who can access your data, who can see photos and videos, in which you have been tagged, and who can read your posts.
To recover some of your privacy, do a self-search on Google. Put your browser in anonymous mode. Look for people’s search engines and social media profiles. You should be able to find these within the first few search result pages and possibly request that your details be removed.
Did you receive an odd-looking direct message, or were you tagged in a post that seems suspicious? Some messages or posts you get on social media can be phishing attacks or Trojan horses. Be wary of quizzes, games, and other third-party apps. They can expose your system to malicious code or copy your data and make it available to advertisers.
Feature Photo by Priscilla du Preez | Unsplash