Should You Be Googling Yourself?

By Brian Wallace

January 2, 2019   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

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In 2004, after being shot by an unknown assailant, one Australian man encountered some disturbing information from Google search results. Revealed in image searches and even filled in by Google’s autocomplete searches was his own name, linked with the names of local criminals, mobsters to be exact.

This false information nearly cost him his very life. Yet, it was still plastered over the front page of Google search results begging the question – if it’s on Google, does it even matter if it’s true or not?

Do You Know What Google Says About You?

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Today, Google handles over 3.5 billion searches every day, a portion of which is simply folks searching for their own names. Millennials lead many previous generations in self-searches for reasons ranging from satisfying their curiosity to damage control.

Among Gen Zers, the younger post-millennial generation, more than one in ten even do so daily. Personal name inquiries to Google aren’t just a young person’s game, however; even boomers aren’t immune to the temptation.

Among the generations:

  • 48% of Gen Zers have Googled themselves
  • 57% of Millennials
  • 45% of Gen Xers
  • 37% of Boomers

In Googling oneself, many people aren’t too happy with what they find, be it true information or otherwise. In fact, only one in five people who self-search actually find relevant and accurate information about themselves, most of it either outdated or in reference to a different person with the same name.

Common outcomes include:

  • 33% are influenced by people with the same name
  • 20% find inaccurate, outdated information
  • 12% are unpleasantly surprised by search results
  • 8% find embarrassing or even potentially damaging information

What Does Incorrect Or Harmful Information Mean To You?

Though accounting for one very extreme case, the situation of this Australian man is something we should consider as a warning. The false information that was revealed to him, unfortunately, didn’t stop there, reminding us that what we can see when we search on Google for our own name is also what other people can see as well.

This can include potential employers, as they are the most likely to do a full background search, including a Google search, on their candidates. Cyber criminals are ever lurking in the shadows of the internet. For them, Google is a trove of valuable and potentially compromising information on their victims.

Americans love their social media and are willfully sharing more information about themselves than ever. That said, half of Americans also believe that their information is less secure than it was five years ago. But where do we point the finger other than towards ourselves?

Habits of oversharing come along with their own interpersonal annoyances, but very perceptive criminals and scammers see it as opportunity.

  • 68% of Americans have their own active Facebook account
  • 35% use Instagram
  • 25% have a LinkedIn profile

On Googling Yourself

On top of social media, two in three Americans use at least one other online secure account for managing personal data. All told, the average American frequents three different sites containing personal data. Though each account is (hopefully) protected with unique login credentials, including passwords, criminals can still use this information against you.

Much like slapping together a ransom note with letters cut from a magazine, cyber criminals know exactly where to look for information. All together, this creates a pretty comprehensive picture of a victim with information ranging from technical data, like account numbers or passwords, to personal information which include security question answers and even personality traits.

Among adults online:

  • 15% have had their social security number compromised, and as a result 14% have had their identity used to open credit cards, and 8% have had someone use it to try and claim a tax return
  • 35% have had sensitive personal information compromised
  • 29% have had an unknown person hack into their social media or email accounts

Cyber criminals prey on vulnerable individuals from the very young, the very old to the very lonely. What we get is hyper-targeted cyber attacks from email phishing to dating site cat-fishing.

How secure is your information online?

The answer could be just a Google search away. Take control of your online data and keep it out of the wrong hands by Googling yourself on a regular basis.

Detailed in this infographic is the current state of online security, how far Google searches can really go, and what it takes to keep your online slate clean in the face of employers and criminals alike.
When Was the Last Time You Googled Yourself?

Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.

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