Pretend you're going out of town on business for 2 weeks. Who would you trust to feed your cat and water your tomato plants? If you immediately thought about your neighbors, you're lucky. That means you live in a tight-knit community next to people who know intimately and trust implicitly. But that might not keep you safe from your neighbor's Google account.
It All Starts With a Name
A 2012 Civic Life in America poll suggests that more than half of all people know the names of most or all of their neighbors, and that's a number that's going up each and every year. That means people don't know you by your face or your car or your music habits. They know your name, and since they live next to you, they know your address, too.
Search engines like Google can go into overdrive with those two details. Anyone with the ability to type in both a name and a location can get information that's specific to you. And that location part is key.
Without a location, a search for a name brings up all sorts of results for people (both alive and dead) who have that name. Google may choose to sort those results by the location of the searcher, but still, if your searcher has a specific address where you live, the search engine can do an even better job of narrowing the results to you, eliminating results that don't apply to you at all.
What Will They Find?
Searches for a name and a location could bring back almost anything, but there are two specific kinds of results that are closely tied to this kind of search, and both can be incredibly damaging.
The first: Mugshots. An analysis in the Huffington Post says that about 1 American in 25 was arrested in 2011 alone, and if you're arrested and processed, a photograph was part of the police procedure. In most states, that photo is fair game for mugshot websites, and the photos are made available mere minutes after they're taken. Meanwhile, it could take you months or even years to clear your name. And those photos often don't disappear when you've handled your arrest.
Mugshot websites often narrow results by county of arrest, so a location makes it easy for Google to spot the right mugshot and serve it up on a search for a name and address. And some mugshot websites sweeten the deal by including the address of people who are arrested, within the photograph detail box.
So if you're arrested, for any reason whatsoever, it'll be very easy for your neighbors to find your mugshot. And that's not all they'll find.
Court documents are also widely available on the Internet (we've discussed that in detail in this blog post). Most documents define the parties involved using names and addresses, and if those documents are in searchable pages indexed by Google, they'll be served right up on a search. If you've been in any kind of legal dispute, your neighbors are sure to find out about it on a search for your name and address.
Why They'll Look For You
It might be hard to believe that anyone would search for your name in order to get dirt on the things you have or haven't done. But, research suggests that we live in a culture in which distrust is common.
For example, in a 2013 study, a whopping two-thirds of participants said it's impossible to be too careful when dealing with people. For these respondents, knowledge really is power. The more they could find out about someone before they had to deal with that person, the safer they felt.
And in some parts of the country, trusting one's neighbors is relatively uncommon. For example, in a Washington Post analysis, only about 30 percent of people who lived in Nevada trusted most or all of their neighbors. In Arizona, only 32 percent trusted neighbors.
Clearly, we're living in a society in which we don't feel as though we really know the people we live close to. And that could have dire consequences, when it comes to your reputation.
If your neighbors choose to search for your name and they find nasty things on that search, your day-to-day life could grow increasingly more difficult. Say goodbye to those cat-sitting appointments, and forget about hitching a ride to work when your car breaks down. That negative data could make you seem untrustworthy, and it could make your neighbors avoid you at all costs.
Undoing the Damage
It doesn't have to be this way. With our help, you can clear your name and clean up your reputation messes. We can remove mugshot entries that make you look like a criminal, and we can clear out those old court cases, so your private information will stay private. And, we can create a firewall around you, so you'll be less vulnerable to these problems in the future. Just contact us, and we'll get started. It really is that easy.
Protect your reputation online.