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Not Liking Your Online Profile? Clean It Up & Track Yourself.

online-profile

Cleaning up your online profile―and creating the one you want―is becoming easier for the layperson as we understand how information flows and accumulates on the internet.

First, find out about yourself.

Facts:

1. 85% of search-engine users do not venture beyond the first page when researching someone.

2. Nearly 90% of recruiters conduct some sort of online investigation into recruits, and of these,

3. Almost 45% dropped someone from consideration based on information they found online.

Solutions:

1. Enter your name in the search bar of Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, three of the most widely used search engines.

2. If you have a common name, like Susan Smith, do a few different searches, adding your current or past employers or your hometown to your name.

3. Search images as well for any potentially embarrassing sorority pillow fight pics.

If nothing appears about you, that’s great if privacy is your only concern. But if you want to create a good impression for clients, employers, or potential new acquaintances, it helps if results return with positive entries (a blurb about a promotion,  civic association membership announcement, a listing of volunteers at a charity events, etc.)  and these results will be at or near the top of page one if you have few other online notices.

If you see negative results (an embarrassing photo on a friend’s website, an inglorious, angry rant on FB or a really odd purchase you made), chances are others, including prospective employers, will see them, too.  The beer keg handstand that was funny back in the day isn’t so amusing to an HR manager considering you for a company position who may believe it depicts poor judgment.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been brought on to research and then polish up someone’s online profile (or, increasingly, from parents of intern or college-age children).   You can remove the items yourself, ask your friend on whose timeline these goofy pics show up to take them down, push down these unwanted results until they appear way further down in the Google search engine return by running a strong paid social media campaign or pay professional reputation companies or investigation firms that perform this task. But from your desk, at the very least, please keep an eye on your internet self by:

Setting up alerts. To get an e-mail when your name is mentioned in news stories, blogs, or videos, go to google.com/alerts and enter your name, your e-mail address, and how often you would like to receive updates (daily, weekly, as they happen). Again, if you have a common name, add your company, hometown, profession, or job title. This service won’t alert you to everything (Facebook entries, for example), but it will help you keep track of new information that might come up on search engines.

For a service that tracks your mentions on major social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, try the aptly-named Mention. The platform can also alert you whenever someone includes your keyword in a post.

The most important advice we can give people is: do not post anything that you yourself cannot wholly control, including the ability to retract the post entirely from the internet.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

10 Steps To Erasing Your Digital Footprint (Part II/II)

footprint2

(Continued from Part I/II)

6. Have an alternate email account

Almost all services online require you to submit an email address to register with them and before use. Creating an alternate email account for these sites can help keep your digital footprint to a minimum.

If you need to send an untraceable email, use Guerrilla Mail for temporary, disposable email addresses.  You can set the time period for which the email address will be active.  You can also avoid disposable email blocks and generate untrackable email from your own domain.  Our job is not to question our readers motives as we all know that everyone has the need for anonymity or untraceability at some point in our digital lives.

7. Opt for the ‘right to be forgotten’

The ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling  recently enforced in Europe  means that search engines can be made to remove links to publicly available news items from their search results. While Google has appealed the ruling, many links have been removed — although this has resulted in the creation of lists to de-indexed pages in its stead — due to the belief that irrelevant and inaccurate information gives a data subject the right to request removal from a search engine data controller.

8. Delete unused e-commerce and retail accounts

Delete unused/inactive retail accounts, such as eBay and Amazon and any others that may contain your financial data. Given the massive uptick in cyberattacks on major retailers and services, and if you no longer use your account, there’s no need to keep sensitive data stored on company servers.

9.  Stay below the radar

For the average home/small business user, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer InPrivate Browsing, Chrome’s Incognito mode, and Firefox’s Private Window can limit trackable data — such as cookies — being collected by services as you browse.

10. Start fresh

Although extreme, if you have the need, wiping all of the aforementioned services and deleting your email inbox can be the best way to remove your footprint. Very little is ever truly forgotten, but falsifying social media account names, locking up security settings tightly, deleting email inboxes and e-commerce accounts will help wipe your presence from the Web.

Just remember that there is only so much you can do and that online information is reposited somewhere in the cloud and there will never be a thorough scrubbing of your digital footprint.  At best, your online presence can be minimized or modified in such a manner as to render search results fairly useless.  But, of course, the best was to control your digital footprint is to post as minimally as possible.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Subject Locates: What’s in a Name?

The date of loss was 5/18/2011. The case has finally come to a serious settlement offer by the insurance company. Your client is nowhere to be found.

After exhausting the client’s primary contact numbers, his emergency contacts and Lexis, online White Pages and Spokeo, to no avail, this type of situation can become frustrating. Finally, using the same platform that propelled Google from the same old search engine to the mother of all information aggregators, comes InstantCheckmate.  A very simple download, this search engine simultaneously culls all of the standard electronic telephone directories (i.e. Yahoo, White Pages, Spokeo, Pipl, Google and many more). Both a yellow and white pages, InstantCheckmate also performs reverse directory searches (for both addresses and phone numbers).

Clear trends indicate that information aggregation will continue to evolve and at much faster rates. For the end user, this means more information will be available, at a faster rate, and with continual updating. For this reason, we conduct frequent search engine tests to determine the lead processor of available information and hence, our current recommendation for phone and address lookups is InstantCheckmate.

Our  investigators: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

How is Your WebFace? Controlling Your Public Image.

Kicking off the new year with a new you?  Just make sure you are in control of your old you – especially online, given the access by billions to your digital information.

We’ve all experienced negative postings online.  Whether it’s that awful office party picture, a scathing review or even serious, defamatory comments.   Several ways to deal with these detrimental posts are:

1. Be upfront. Any potential employer/customer/prospective date with even a smidgen of common sense will Google you the minute they’re serious about hiring, doing business with or dating you. It’s far better to come forward with the disclosure  than wait for them to discover the negative information on their own. Let them know what’s out there, the truth and how you intend to handle it. (This may actually work as a positive for you in that it displays your awareness of online reputation and perception management.)

2. Apologize if necessary. It can be the case that you are wrong.  You made a hasty mistake; an inappropriate tweet about your boss or a co-worker, an arrogant post about what you expect from people you date, even a goofball picture that doesn’t truly represent your best characteristics. A basic tenet of crisis control is, if you have caused the situation, apologize quickly and that will usually immediately lower the temperature of the perceived slight.

3. Get it down. Many people are just now beginning to realize the permanence of the web and how it can create a major branding challenge: once negative information is out there, it’s  difficult to remove. If you’ve created the questionable content (a thoughtless tweet, a tasteless YouTube video) you can delete it and — eventually — it will be removed from the caches of Google and other search engines.  (You can hasten the process by asking Google to remove a page or site from its listings — but only once it’s been taken down). If you don’t control the content, all you can really do is ask the person who does to remove it. This could be polite (a friend who’s posted an inappropriate photo to Facebook will probably oblige you) or not-so-polite (you may need to enlist a lawyer if someone is defaming you and won’t desist).

4. Control your SEO. The best and surest way to overcome negative information that’s plastered on the web? Create your own content and drive the bad stuff down in search engine rankings. No one but your worst enemy will bother to visit Page 20 on a Google search; most readers will stick to the first page or two. Creating a robust social media and online presence guarantees that the top results will be the ones you want people to see. Studies have shown that video, in particular, is prized by Google and will rank highly, so you might want to consider a video blog. Traditional blogs, because their content is updated frequently, are also search-engine-friendly. Creating profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also helps (they’re frequently at the top of Internet searches), and it also never hurts to get quoted in the media or write articles for various publications (which benefits anyone’s personal brand).

If you stick to the principle that everything you input will be seen by a prospective contact, you should be able to eventually develop enough self filters to avoid undoing your reputation online.  (Conversely, being too close-mouthed will make others think you are insignificant or have things to hide.  Play it real and play it smart.)

Included below is a link to 50 niche search engines you should be aware of; Google isn’t the only search site people use to research your background and credentials.

Our Operatives: Street smart, web savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Related articles

Subject Locates: Successful Searches v. Expensive Failures

One of the most common assignments we receive is for a subject locate.  Usually generated from attorneys, insurance companies, financial institutions (as, as you know, we do not work for individuals), we are often asked to locate:

– Adverse Witnesses

– Cooperative Witnesses

– Debtors

– Clients

– Heirs

– Etc.

The difference between a successful locate and an expensive failure is how much attention and care is given to a case.  Obvious, right?  But it has to be the right attention, which is a tight focus, and the proper care; to detail.

The starting point in a successful locate is to gather as much information from the originating requestor as possible:

Name: AKAs, Extensions (Jr., III, MD, Esq…), Maiden form, prior marriage form

Address: Last known contact date at this address, form of contact, (e.g. mail, phone… ), contact outcome, ( i.e. returned mail, no response, etc.).

Phone Number:  Last known phone number, cell, landline, Skype, other  VOIP (internet phone).

Personal identifiers: DOB, SSN, TIN, DL#, Medicare/caid recipient? School i.d.?

Contacts: Family, friends, employers, coworkers

Prior lawsuits: If known.  To include class of involvement (e.g., plaintiff, defendant, petitioner…)

Civil records: Is/was the subject married, divorced? Has s/he declared bankruptcy or have judgments, liens… against him/her?

Criminal records:  Almost every state now allows for an inmate lookup.  (If a person is missing for a considerable period of time, there are only so many scenarios, short of a bizarre abduction, to account for this disappearance: a move, death or incarceration.)

A good investigator will then form a profile of the missing subject and conduct an address history search which will generally yield a pattern.  (We’ll get to that in the next para.)  The address history may not contain the subject’s current address. (All databases, from DMVs to privately held, fee-based information companies operate within the limitations of data input regularity.  The subject may not release his/her most current address to an agency.  P.O. box registration is no assurance of a current address either.  If it is a planned moved, one simply has to apply and receive the P.O. box prior to moving and generate forwarding from the old address.)

Having created the profile, the investigator now looks for the pattern.  Is the subject constantly relocating?  Staying within a certain geographical area?  Is s/he beholden to a mortgage?   Has s/he foreclosed?  An address history search will also almost always reveal family member information.

Once the profile and pattern have been formed and detected, the investigator must decide on a course of action. The approach will determine if the locate will be successful.   Each investigator has his/her own technique but there is a different methodology applied between “friendly” locates and those involving people who’ve intentionally chosen to stay or go off the grid.   A sharp investigator will know how to entice a friendly subject and not tip off an adverse one.   That knowledge comes with experience and skill and a great deal of curiosity.

As a final step, an investigator may have to physically check an address to verify the subject’s address.  By arriving to this point, all other methods of locating have been exhausted but valuable knowledge on the  subject gained. (The location should be thoroughly researched before heading out to the field.  Showing up on a private road on 2 acres of land in the middle of nowhere is usually not going to result in a productive session.  Suggestion: Google Earth.  There should also be an established strategy to observe the location, discreetly,  within a restricted time span of when the subject’s presence is most anticipated.  If covert observation is not possible, the game plan must be thought out prior to, and include at least Plans A, B and C. )   Below; lack of a plan:

Finally, if your investigator returns with an address, ask that it be “verified”.  If there is  no confirmation that the subject is at the reported location, and the requestor is not made aware of the nonverification, a costly situation for the requestor may result, financially and with regard to negotiation stance.   If  the locate results are not verifiable, (and that occurs, although that number should be in the single digits, percentage-wise, in a competent investigator’s record), the requester will at least have that knowledge with which to make decisions.

Our operatives: A step ahead.

As always, stay safe.

Yahoo and Google Data Availability to Law Enforcement & For Legal Process

email magnifying glass

 

As we’ve surmised by now, Lois Lerner’s missing emails exist – somewhere.  There’s also now the availability of cloud hosting, a method of saving your email on the net that allows you 24/7  access from any remote location.  So, do you really know what happens to all of your subscription information, emails, attachments, etc., once you shut down an email account?  What if your information is requested by law enforcement or in anticipation of litigation?   What is the legal process in such a case?

We’ve conducted research into data retention by the two major service providers: Yahoo and Google:

YAHOO

yahoo data save

Compliance With Law Enforcement:    PRESERVATION

Will Yahoo! preserve information?

Yahoo! will preserve subscriber/customer information for 90 days. Yahoo! will preserve information  for an additional 90-day period upon receipt of a request to extend the preservation.   If Yahoo! does not receive formal legal process for the preserved information before the end of the  preservation period, the preserved information may be deleted when the preservation period expires.

 

GOOGLE

What kinds of data do you disclose for different products?

To answer that, let’s look at four services from which government agencies in the U.S. commonly request information: Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice and Blogger. Here are examples of the types of data we may be compelled to disclose, depending on the ECPA legal process, the scope of the request, and what is requested and available. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.

Gmail
Subpoena:

  • Subscriber registration information (e.g., name, account creation information, associated email addresses, phone number)
  • Sign-in IP addresses and associated time stamps

Court Order:

  • Non-content information (such as non-content email header information)
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Email content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order
YouTube
Subpoena:

  • Subscriber registration information
  • Sign-in IP addresses and associated time stamps

Court Order:

  • Video upload IP address and associated time stamp
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Copy of a private video and associated video information
  • Private message content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order
Google Voice
Subpoena:

  • Subscriber registration information
  • Sign-up IP address and associated time stamp
  • Telephone connection records
  • Billing information

Court Order:

  • Forwarding number
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Stored text message content
  • Stored voicemail content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order
Blogger
Subpoena:

  • Blog registration page
  • Blog owner subscriber information

Court Order:

  • IP address and associated time stamp related to a specified blog post
  • IP address and associated time stamp related to a specified post comment
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena

Search Warrant:

  • Private blog post and comment content
  • Information obtainable with a subpoena or court order

Note about general Gmail retention:  Even if you Purge your Trash email or shut down your gmail account, your email remains available for recovery for 20 days beyond when the mail is deleted or the account closed.

Please feel welcome to contact us with more specific questions regarding data retrieval from these two major service providers (and lesser used ISPs w/unique data product.)

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

 

 

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