Growing up in the age of technological innovation, I started my digital footprint as a 6th grader. That year, I got my first phone and a tablet I used to create a Snapchat and Instagram account. My parents never put any kind of restrictions on what to post or what not to post, so I would say I was pretty naive in how much information about myself was easily accessible to anyone. For example, I never made my instagram account private before, and I remember sometimes even tagging the location of the picture on instagram (although I no longer have any location access on). I also remember making my first email address that year as well and it only had my first name in the address. The fact that I started building my digital footprint very early on in my life shows the idea of permanence within data because the inaccuracies of my information that I posted back then still could exist, taking significant time and effort to fix or update. Even though I limit what people can access now through privacy modes and being aware of what I post, the information about myself that I posted throughout middle school is definitely still out there somewhere, which is kind of nerve-wracking and worrisome as I can't recall every little thing I have ever posted without filter.
Google SearchAfter googling "Joyce Kim," unsurprisingly, I could not find myself easily because my name is pretty common. What I did find interesting is that most of the people who popped up initially were also asian females. This is most likely due to the fact that Korean people have a very limited diversity for last names; many people share the same last name.
The first "Joyce Kim" to pop up after doing a simple Google search was Leonard's girlfriend in the TV show "Big Bang Theory." Other respectable figures ranged from CEOs, directors at fortune 500 companies, etc.
And so, this prompted me to search my name with the city I am from. From this google search, records of my athletic profiles from the time I was a competitive swimmer popped up, along with some GA news articles about my high school swimming career that mentioned my name. I also managed to find my Linkedin and Facebook profile, most likely because I put where I am from on those profiles. From this google search though, I noticed that several whitepages for my name popped up. After clicking on it and going through the results on whitepages, I could not find my information profile. The biggest alarm from this google search was that I came across this link that said, "People living at __Address__," which was shocking because the address in the link was my real home address. After clicking on the fastpeoplesearch.com link, I found that my mom, myself, and my brother are linked to my home address, along with our ages and phone numbers. It was quite easy to find all of this information quickly, which just shows how much information someone could easily find out about my family and I with just a couple of google searches.
Username SearchAnother thing I tried was googling my social media handles. I first tried my instagram handle and the first thing to pop up was a link to my instagram account.
Using a data broker called InstantCheckmate, I used it to find any of my personal public records. However when I used my information including my home city I currently reside in, my profile didn't show up at all. Every Joyce Kim in my area were either over 40 and the closest one I could find was 22 years old living in a nearby area. So I decided to try Ann Arbor instead but I had no successful results. I tried modifying the search results to be more specific and even went on other public record sites such as whitepages and found nothing. One successful website was fastpeoplesearch as mentioned from before, in which i was able to find my age, address, and phone number. However, the phone number listed on my public profile linked to my home address was not my personal one, but my mom's.
Maintaining Data Identity
Now that I am older and have learned just how deep my digital footprint can be and how easily traceable my information is, I am more careful about what I allow online. I never use location tracking services on social media apps, and have changed my social media platforms to private. I also never post anything that could potentially be harmful or dangerous. Furthermore, the relevant information I found regarding myself such as my social media platforms and LinkedIn are pretty accurate in portraying bits and pieces about myself. From first glance, a person would be able to see that I am a college student currently attending UMich and that I live a pretty interactive life surrounded by good friends/family, working for places I am passionate about, and other things I am interested in. However, the information that is available to anyone online about me is not the whole picture of who I am, which could be misleading or inaccurate at times. I personally think that this kind of potential situation is actually okay because I'd rather not try to make my online identity portray everything about myself since it can be accessed by anyone. From now on, I will continue to be careful of what I post and make sure to implement more privacy settings for the digital platforms I currently have.
Through analyzing my online data, I realize that having a common name might work in my favor in keeping my information harder to search. Although it makes it harder for me to find information regarding my life, I don't think I would prefer to have myself popping up on the first page of a google search of my first and last name. I like how my information was harder to come up with google searches and the databroker because I want to keep my private life on the down low, off and away from the internet. Even though I have no power in how others perceive my online identity, I can control the things I post online on my individual platforms. The main ones I use are Instagram and Facebook and thankfully, those applications have many account settings to control who sees my information and who has access to it. From here on out, I plan to be more aware of what I am posting and what could potentially circulate on the internet in order to protect my identity, along with the people associated with me. Being more aware can include not posting anything that people can see where I am, not posting something that could potentially be used against me and my family members, and trying to be the most authentic self, both online and in person. Being careful and keeping these things in mind will not eradicate all the hypothetical dangers that come with being active online, but I am sure that it will help to a certain degree.