Searching Your Searcher

February 19, 2008 11:43:24 AM PST
It happens about 50 million times a day: someone Googles a proper name--and it could be yours.

ABC 7's Alan Krashesky found new technology that can help you figure out who is searching for you and viewing your website profiles.

In today's online networking generation, it's important for you to know who is looking at all of those professional and social websites that everyone's putting up. It's new internet technology known as "visitor tracking." But "searching your searcher" raises privacy concerns for people who thought their searches were anonymous.

"Who doesn't want to know if people are Googling them?" said Katie May.

It's kind of like caller ID for the internet. May says she felt empowered when she was able to figure out who was checking her out.

"It makes me feel like i am spying a little bit ," May said.

The Lakeview resident says she used "visitor tracking" technology to figure out that a former friend was repeatedly Googling her and clicking on one of her personal website profiles.

"He works for a university and all of those searches were coming from that university," said May.

Valuable information, because she says the same guy was also sending her inappropriate e-mails. These visitor tracking services can be downloaded to social and professional networking profiles, and it's already built in to others.

"You shouldn't actually think that just because you are on the web you are completely anonymous," said Tony Czupryna, Naymz.

Depending on the service, you may even get your searchers full name, if they are logged in to the same site. All tracking services provide the city and state where the searcher lives along with the time of the search. They also show you the specific terms used to look for you in search engines.

Some services also show the searcher's IP address. That's a number specifically assigned to their computer. You can also learn the internet provider the searcher is using. It can be an internet service like Comcast or the exact company where your searcher works. This can help you determine who's looking at you, whether it's a prospective employer or a recent date.

Naymz.com, based in Chicago, and Ziggs.com both offer visitor tracking. So when someone types in your name to search about you and clicks on your profile you get a visitor tracking alert.

"Right now, with enough separate pieces of information, you can tie all of that together and identify somebody right down to either a location or a particular identity," said Leslie Reis, John Marshall Law School.

Reis is the director of the Center for Information Technology and Privacy Law at the John Marshall Law School. She says it also opens the door to internet privacy issues.

"Transparency is the real issue. What a particular website is doing with your information, what information a particular website is collecting about you, how long they are keeping it, how they are using it and who they are sharing it with," Reis said.

Ziggs.com's visitor tracking does not supply names or IP addresses. Its creator says the service isn't just about who is looking but knowing how many people may be interested in your life.

"It's really nice to know when you are in the midst of having conversations with people, whether they be professionally or personally, that someone has actually gone to your page and taken a look at the information," said Tim DeMello, Ziggs.com.

But even Katie May admits there's a flip side to all this.

"It weirds me out a little bit to know that someone that I am searching can Know i am searching them," May said.

Most of these services are free and some charge a small monthly fee as a premium member on their networking sites. Police have been using the technology for years to catch online criminals, but police then subpoena IP addresses information from internet providers to get exact names and locations of users.

Visitor tracking sites:

www.naymz.com

www.ziggs.com

trakzor.com

www.mixmap.com


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