How easy are you to find online?

19th August 2013

Not a stalker, honest!

What I am about to say does seem very stalker like, it is not intended to be. It is intended to show the amount of data we openly share online, our personal lives left wide open, which some people would be more than happy to exploit.

For the sake of anonymity and online security of the people I am talking about, I have chosen to omit names, places and any other identifiable info (including pronouns, the people will be referred to as 'they' where appropriate). I will also not mention any of these people's details to anyone, even in private, so please don't ask.

The trip

I was recently taking a trip to visit a friend. On the way down a couple sat opposite to me. One of them was wearing their work ID, on it had their name, place of work and staff ID as well as their picture, the other person didn't (they didn't work at the same place as I will soon find out).

Finding them

So I went to Facebook, typed in the name and up pops a fair few people. I could have just gone through and matched the picture to the name, it wouldn't have taken too long, but there was no guarantee that they even had a picture of themselves there. Thanks to their ID badge I also knew where they worked, so I typed that in to narrow the search. One result, quick picture check showed it was the same person.

Their profile was open to public viewing, so I instantly had a wealth of information about them. 
Within five minutes I knew the following just from their Facebook:
  • They had recently just come back from a week long holiday (where the holiday was, who with, and all the pictures from it)
  • Where they lived (including exact address)
  • Where they were going and how long for
  • Mobile number
  • Date of birth
  • Plenty of photos, so clearly personal ones
  • Their likes and dislikes
  • Twitter account
  • Who they were dating
So after five short minutes (on a spotty 3G connection) I knew where they lived, photos of the inside of their house (including valuables) and that they would be away for a while. If that doesn't bother you, maybe this next part might.

Finding their friend

So I knew they were good friends with the person they were travelling with. A quick click on their friends and a little look at profile pictures I found this person too.
Like their friend, their profile was open to the public. After another few minutes I got almost the same information, except I could only find the city they lived in, not the exact address. However, there were enough photos of garden parties with plenty of identifiable landmarks in the background that this wouldn't have been to hard to find (go Google Street View).

Still not worried?

Well both of these people had listed as in relationship with another person on their profile. But yet both were here on a train more than enjoying each other company, if you get what I mean.

So in 10 minutes I knew where one of them lived exactly, one within a city with a good idea of how to find the exact address, both their mobile numbers, date of births and all their photos.
As well as the fact that they were both on a trip for a few days and getting a bit hands on with someone, that I only assume that their actual partners didn't know about.

In short, I had enough information to not only blackmail them (as they were cheating on their partners, so I assume). I knew the perfect time to break into their house while they were away, along with photos of things that were valuable. One of them even had a photos of a new keyring, with their keys on, I don't think it would have been to hard to make a copy of a key from that.
Within 10 minutes I had enough information about them to pretty much ruin their lives, thats worrying.

Why so serious?

The scariest thing is that all this information was given up willingly. If I had asked them direct for this they would have told me to jog on (or at least asked why I wanted that information).
Just because Facebook has an address box on it, doesn't mean you have to fill it in. If you want to fill it in then fine, just remember to use the privacy settings so only friends can view it.

Try it, google your name, search Facebook and see what you can find out about yourself in 10 minutes. If it is too much, then do something about it, before it is too late.

More importantly

Don't be a dick and cheat on your partner!