Protect Your Identity Online - Who is searching for you?

It is likely that when you apply for a job, make friends online, or even post for an online dating service that you will be researched. Employers may just Google your name to find any interesting information. Online dating is so common and an easy way to find out more about a person you don’t know very well is to do online research. While most of us probably have nothing to hide, we still need to take an interest in protecting our identity and privacy. I have listed a few ways to protect yourself online.

Step 1: Research Yourself

Go ahead and see what you can find out about yourself. Google your name (or even in combination with your city/high school/college/employer) to see what information exists out there. Search images, too. Someone may have you tagged in a photo online. Is the information you have found positive, negative, neither? Do you find your phone number, address, and other personal information? If so, follow the next few steps to ensure your privacy.

Step 2: Manage Your Privacy Settings

Log on to any personal profiles you have online (Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Linked In, etc.) and make sure your privacy settings include public search. Limit your profile to the individuals you choose. Also set the privacy settings for your photos and friend lists. Inform your friends of your interest in personal privacy and kindly ask that they keep posted images of you professional and not to tag your name if you don’t want them to. Some information may not be private, such as employer listings and government records that you do not have control over.

Step 3: Become Unlisted

You can have your phone number and address unlisted through your phone service provider for a small fee. Online, you can have your phone number and address unlisted at Google’s site. What you have to do is Google your name and city to find a phone listing for yourself. These will appear at the top left. You can choose to have your information removed from Google phone books and I have illustrated the steps below.

Remove Yourself from Google Phone Book

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Search for your name on Google, include your city to narrow results.Click results to see listings, link will be available to remove yourself.List your contact info and Google will remove you in a week or less.
Search for your name on Google, include your city to narrow results.
Search for your name on Google, include your city to narrow results.
Click results to see listings, link will be available to remove yourself.
Click results to see listings, link will be available to remove yourself.
List your contact info and Google will remove you in a week or less.
List your contact info and Google will remove you in a week or less.

Step 4: Build Your Online Identity.

Do you want to see who is searching for your or build your own positive online identity? LinkedIn.com and Ziggs.com are great sites to have a personal public profile with the information you want people to see. At Ziggs.com you can actually build a profile online and get e-mail alerts when it is visited. This alert will even tell you what area of the globe the search came from. You can build a profile to advertise yourself professionally or to just keep up on who is searching for you online. If you operate a website, write an "about me" section with the information you want people to know.

Step 5: Passwords and e-mail

If you use sites like craigslist.com or eBay.com, use an e-mail address that does not include your name. Although sites like Craig's List use auto-generated e-mail names for the first time you contact another person online, your personal e-mail will be reflected in subsequent contacts. Even if you are just selling something, keeping your information private is necessary. Don't include your address or phone number on a posting. Use different passwords for different accounts, and even different user names. It may be difficult to remember but is worth the extra step. Only use e-mails with your first and last name for contact with close family and friends and job applications.

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