Where Have You Gone?

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In this day and age, it is quite common to google a name when you want to know who somebody is. Thus a few months ago, I googled our language assistant’s name and found lots of information about him before meeting him in real life.

Similarly people use the Internet to find old friends and acquaintance and have reconnected with folks they though they’d never hear of again.

I have been there too and have found former classmates, college friends and foreign colleagues. Some have become Facebook friends and it is lovely to read their updates every now and again and exchange news via private messages.

However there are also people who seem to have completely disappeared from this planet and whose name never crops up when googled – or rather when information crops up it points to a totally different person.

This is something that really puzzles me. I try to protect my data as much as I can but if you google my name, you’ll still find a few things about me. Yet there are people my age with a college degree who have no Facebook account, no visible professional email addresses which include their names, whose name is not registered in any way for their jobs; in other words people who have no Internet visibility whatsoever. Am I the only one who finds it strange not to say worrying?

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Online Data vs Online Presence

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I believed that the numerous stories and articles about being cautious about the information one shares online had led young people to be more careful, it seems they are not.

I first noticed this a few weeks ago with my students when I created a FB profile for our language exchange. When I set up the profile I sent an email to all the students involved to let them know but also warned them that they could choose what information they could share with the profile (aka me). Only one made sure I could send her messages but not see what her friends were writing on her wall.

Yesterday I got a letter about our future English assistant. As the French administration had apparently not asked the would-be assistants to provide an email, I googled his name and here is what I got:

– his date of birth
– several photos
– the name of his high school
– the name of his college
– the description of his current university program
– the names of both his parents
– some personal articles about trips abroad
– his twitter alias
– some particulars about hobbies and interests
– one email address
– his FB profile (which revealed even more, including his girlfriend’s name and photo)

all within a few seconds.

Do you believe that this is too much or just fine? How would you feel if anyone could find as many details about your own child even if – as in GL’s case – none of it is incriminating?