COLUMN: Becoming a Google guinea pig

When researching a story about snooping on neighbors, I needed a guinea pig to figure out just how painless it is to get information about someone off the Internet.

When you type your own name into Google, you never know what you’ll find.

I figured the easiest name to plug into Google would be my own.

After hitting “search,” pages and pages of stories I have written for the Herald popped up in my results. I’m hoping the sheer number of them will deter any potential stalkers from wading through the results looking for useful bits of information.

Next on the list of results were my Facebook profile, my LinkedIn profile, my blog, and a long-abandoned Grooveshark account.

At least I thought the Facebook was mine. Turns out I was a step ahead of myself and have set my account to being hidden from search engines. There are apparently two other Brandi Jewetts on Facebook, so they’ll hopefully throw any creepers off my trail.

Upon closer inspection, I found my name mentioned in various places in random documents uploaded to the web. Glancing at the search results, it wouldn’t take someone more than 10 seconds to figure out I went to UND and was involved with various organizations there.

I switched gears and tried the public court search site for North Dakota. I was greeted by the citation I received three years ago for making too short of a stop while taking a right at a red light. I got one laugh because I was reminded the ticket was issued on my birthday.

Happy Birthday — not.

No big surprises

If you’re a regular reader of my columns, you know I’m from Valley City, N.D., so you could browse through those records, too. I only have one speeding ticket on file there so it’s not terribly exciting.

I don’t own a house so searching myself on the Grand Forks County property information site was a dud, though I did discover a number of our elected officials here have some nice-looking homes.

My name wasn’t the only item the Internet had information about. Next up was my cell phone number.

I learned a simple search can tell you which city the phone number originates from, the carrier and whether or not it’s been associated with spam. Despite what the people I call to interview may have to say, the Internet says my phone number isn’t associated with spam activity. Neat.

And my carrier is Verizon if you were hanging on the edge of your seat there.

After doing a vanity search, I moved on to my parents and roommates.

I’m sure my mom wouldn’t be pleased to know her age is out there for all to see thanks to sketchy people-finding sites. I did learn my dad shares his name with an American colonel who moonlighted as a pirate every once in a while.

Their addresses also turned up, which means anyone could plug it in and check out an aerial view of my childhood home on Google Maps — a little unsettling but I can’t say I haven’t creeped on other people’s houses this way.

After telling my one of my roommates about his long-lost Myspace profile I found that listed everything down to his income level and zodiac sign, it became clear that no one enjoys being the Google guinea pig.

This includes myself, or, as the Internet knows me, Brandi Jewett No. 3.

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