Catherine Grillo

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The images that appear when I google 'Catherine Grillo'. Three of the images in this small snippet are of me
I have always been active online, so when I searched myself, I was not surprised that I did not need to do much of a “deep dive” to find some personal information. While I have a common first name, it was still very easy to find photos of myself from high school, sports statistics, and social media accounts. Starting my search, I knew that my browser knows who I am because I use it every day. To account for this, I decided to conduct my searches in incognito mode. I felt this would be a fresh start for the search engines I used because I was not logged into any accounts and there was no browsing history available. I also decided to use different search engines so I could compare results. The results from my Google search were most troubling, which is unsurprising. I must admit, it is unsettling to know that someone can easily find my addresses, relatives, and demographic information from a single Google search. I knew I would be able to find social media accounts, like LinkedIn, but I did not expect to find very personal information. A general theme I noticed throughout my searches is that I had a feeling of unsettlement from being able to find so much information about myself in such a short amount of time. And not only was there an abundance of information, but it was completely accurate.

Search Engines

I broke my search down into two queries. First, I searched my full name only, then I searched my full name paired with my hometown to see if this would yield more specific results. I was planning on doing more variations, but these two queries were all it took to find an alarming amount of information about me.

Google Search

While searching just my name, many things were uncovered about me like my university, my jobs, my major, my location, pictures of me and my friends, as well as all of my social media accounts. Additionally, I was able to find my Medium account and the blogs I have posted. More interestingly, my softball recruitment videos buried deep within YouTube appeared as one of the first results.

Searching my name paired with my hometown yielded more troubling results. I was able to find out essentially everything I needed to know about myself. In particular, a profile of me on FastPeopleSearch was one of the first results. This had my address, age, an interactive map of where my house is, my past addresses, and a list of my relatives. I expected that I would find pictures of myself online from years of social media usage and high school sports, but I never suspected that it would be so easy to find my home address for free. It is safe to say I was very unsettled from this experience.

Ecosia Search

After the concerning results from Google, I was not looking forward to my search on, Ecosia. However, when I searched my name, I was pleasantly surprised when the only result that was about me was one of my offensive highlights softball videos and my high school track statistics. While I don’t necessarily want people to see my sub-par fifty-five- and two-hundred-meter dash times, these results are much less troubling than Google.

When I searched my name paired with my hometown, my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts appeared. I was surprised to see Twitter in the results, as I have not used this account in years. While exploring images, the only one I found was a thumbnail from my softball recruitment video. This is in stark contrast to Google that had multiple images of me appear, as well as images I have posted on social media of friends.

The search results of my name and town in Bing

Bing Search

Lastly, I explored a search engine I have never liked, Bing. Again, I was surprised to find that upon searching my full name, very little information about me appeared. Among many Catherines, Katherines, and Cathys, the only thing displayed about me was my softball recruitment video – a general theme I am seeing here is that this video is very persistent.

When I searched my name paired with my town, a profile of myself was displayed on the side of the page that had my school, major, LinkedIn account, work experience, and a “People Also Searched For” section. What is most concerning to me is that I have never heard of some of the people listed in this section. Bing claims this information is from LinkedIn, but how did it have the names of people I do not know and have not connected with on LinkedIn? There were no pictures of me displayed in the images section, but I would rather there be pictures than an in-depth profile down the side of the search results page.

My Online Identity

My Information Across Platforms

When I started this online data identity journey, I expected the information about me across different search engines to be relatively stable, or equal. I was surprised and confused to see that this was not the case. Why did Google have so much more information about me? Why did Bing associate me with people I have never heard of? It felt as though my questions would never be answered.

In search of my own answer, I explored each search engine’s privacy policy. Predictably, Google's Privacy Policy was by far the most invasive. Google collects information in the background every time a user uses a Google product across their devices. They collect information from emails, google drive documents, photos and videos, YouTube comments, and more. Ecosia's and Bing's policies were much less invasive. Ecosia wipes user data every week, as it is a privacy-friendly platform. This could be a reason why Ecosia yielded the least specific results. Bing does collect information through third parties and use of Microsoft products, but since I do not use many Microsoft products, there is not much additional information to collect. Since I use Google products constantly across all my devices, Google was able to display an abundance of personal information about me as opposed to Bing and Ecosia.

It is strange that one search engine can hold a great deal of sensitive information, while others might display surface-level information. The question of whether or not publicly displaying where I live is ethical, plagues me. It feels wrong that anyone can look up my name and hometown and one of the first things that displays will be my address.

Information Accuracy

The information I found about myself on the search engines was accurate. From social media accounts to sports statistics, to my addresses, to my university. The only mildly incorrect information was Bing’s “People Also Searched For” section as there were people in that section that I do not know. I now wonder how Bing found those people, and why the search engine thought I was associated with them.

While the information was accurate, it is not representative of who I am. My softball videos were persistent throughout my queries, yet I do not play softball anymore as I decided not to pursue a collegiate career. My Twitter account and pictures I have tweeted were also highlighted, but I have not used Twitter in years. Even when I did use it, I posted superficial information like wishing people ‘Happy Birthday’, linking to Instagram posts, and retweeting others’ tweets. I was not comfortable in the Twitter environment, and therefore never expressed myself. This made me realize that if someone were to explore my Twitter account, it would not paint an accurate picture of who I am today, or even who I was when I used the account.


While I can see both positives and negatives regarding the ease of obtaining personal information, I feel that the negative outcomes for having an abundance of personal information easily accessible outweigh the positive outcomes. Having my address, or anyone’s address, displayed could be dangerous for many reasons. Displaying an interactive google map of my house – including street view – and the surrounding area takes this one step further. I now feel that we are fed an illusion of online privacy; nothing is truly private.

Looking forward, I should be more careful about what I put online because there is a great deal of information about me. For example, my Twitter account was one thing that appeared in all three search engines. I could de-activate this account since I do not use it. This would probably delete most of the pictures displayed on Google Images of me and also remove a result from Ecosia and Bing. This would be a small first step in the right direction. FastPeopleSearch has a section in their Privacy Policy that allows users to request to delete their information that is not gathered by third parties and to opt-out of the sale of personal information to third parties. FastPeopleSearch explains they have a right to deny this request, but I think if I requested to have my personal information deleted from this site, it would be a good next step in minimizing my online identity.