Tracking Down A Childhood Friend [Internet Privacy]
A few weeks ago, I was in the living room on the laptop surfing the Internet. You know, the casual, pointless kind of web surfing because what’s on TV is less interesting. I ended up on Facebook and was tracking down some of my old childhood friends.
Not all of my old friends are on Facebook, so I wondered if I could find them anyway. Specifically, I was looking for an old childhood friend that used to live in the house next door to mine when I was under 10 years old. I put on my sleuth hat, got to work, and ended up finding my friend’s arrest record.
Yeah, he obviously went the wrong way in life. But, the lesson from the tech perspective is just how much information can be found online. It is rather ominous, actually. Here is how I found him:
- Using Google Maps, I tracked down the house I grew up in. I then scrolled over to the house next door and got the address.
- I searched the county property records and found the sale of that house. It so happens that the people who my friend’s family sold the house to still own it. But, the record of sale had the NEW address that my friend moved to.
- I searched the property records for that house in the county just north of mine. I found a record of ownership transfer from the two parents to just one of them. So, come to find out, my friend’s parents got a divorce. The father still owns the house.
- I ran a Google search for my friend’s full name and ended up on a short local news story of his arrest for a home break-in.
- I went to the county Sherriff’s Office website where they publicly post arrest records. Sure enough, a search for this name found his full arrest record, where he works, his address (which happened to be the same as his dad’s).
I tracked down an ex-girlfriend of mine by finding her married name on Classmates.com, then finding her by that new name on Facebook.
Sometimes you hit a dead end. I was trying to find another friend of mine. I remembered only her first name. But, I remember the general vicinity of her house because we used to go party there. Using Google Maps street view, I browsed the vicinity of of the area and I believe I found the house she lived in. It looks right, at least from street view. However, a search on the home owners leads to a completely different name that I don’t remember. I’m fairly sure it is the right house, but I arrived at a dead end and never did find her.
The point is, though, that with a little bit of sleuthing and the Internet, you can find a lot of information out there.
Is this a good thing? Is it reason to be paranoid?
Personally, I’m not bothered by it at all. Everything I searched was a matter of public record. To the extent I was able to get information from any social media sites, that is information that was posted voluntarily.
Have you ever tracked down somebody using the Internet? Were you successful?