So Min An
I have had my foot in the technology world for as long as I can remember. I created my first email when I was in elementary school and made several social media accounts when I was in middle school. Though I consider my name to be unique in Korean, it was difficult to find information about me as my information was covered by two famous celebrities from Korea with the same first name as me. Even though it was difficult to find information, I was quite delighted to know my information was somewhat on the safer side than most people. I will be splitting this page into three big sections: results from search engines, results directly from social media, and results from an online data broker. With all the information I can find online, I'll be putting all the informational pieces together to determine my true online identity and evaluate if my online identity conceals sensitive information away from the general public.
Data From Search Engines
I searched my name “So Min An”, on three different search engine websites: Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Surely enough, there wasn’t a single link about me in the first five pages of search results. Most results were newspaper articles about a female celebrity. Occasionally, I would find links to Pinterest or Instagram accounts. However, every single one of the links were for other people with the same name as me. At first, I tried swapping my first and last name to “An So Min”, but I still had no luck from the three search engines. In hopes of finding information about me for this assignment, I even searched my name in Korean as well. As I kept digging through the search results page, an idea came to my mind. For my final attempt, instead of keeping my first name as two words, I decided to combine it into one, “Somin An”. When I first made my email and social media accounts, I chose the name “Somin An” instead of “So Min An”. This change was made because I was embarrassed that my name was written in two words instead of one, I wanted to fit in with my American friends. Another reason why I chose to use “Somin” was because websites would always output “Good morning, So”, instead of “Good morning, So Min”.
After several searches on search engines, I was finally able to find information about me. Though it was just a list of Facebook profiles with the name “Somin An”, I was still in the list. If a single Facebook profile list page was all I could find after multiple searches of myself, I thought, “Wow, I did a pretty good job keeping up my privacy online.”
Data From Social Media
Although I didn’t find much on search engines, I knew that there would be more if I searched for myself on individual social media sites. The four main sites I used since I was young were: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Because I am quite careful with what I post on social media, I wasn’t able to find much public information, just as I had hoped. Most information I have shared on social media has been kept private.
The default privacy setting I kept on my Facebook profile was on the stricter side. Unless one is added as my friend, not much information can be taken from my profile page. Viewing my Facebook profile page from the public's point of view, it was sharing my name, birth country, the city I live in, and two pictures of myself. Scrolling all the way down on my profile page shared within my friends list, my digital history dating from 2013 popped up. From all the games and pages I have liked on Facebook to all the pictures I have taken with my church group. Diving into the about section of my profile, I was astonished by all the information I had shared on Facebook. It contained the college I was attending, my email address, phone address, date of birth, and Facebook groups and events I was a part of. Facebook also shared that I checked into Causeway Bay Hotel on July 20, 2019. I always thought of myself as a person who didn’t leave many traces online, but that turned out to be false.
Additionally, I googled my Instagram account username and my old posts popped up. Unlike the majority of users however, I am not an avid user and poster on Instagram so I only have a couple posts, with most of them being from several years ago. Oftentimes Instagram can be used to gauge a person’s personality, friend group, and status, but due to my inactivity on it, I believe not much can be learned of my personal life from that account and this is something I am proud of. I would rather live my life quietly instead of boasting about every aspect of my life on Instagram. Society nowadays has trained us to think showing off your life on socials is a good thing, but through this class I am learning that this is not always the case and there are many dangers and information insecurity problems that accompany social media.
Though I haven't used my twitter since October 2015, it was a hidden gem that made me blush in embarrassment. My twitter was mostly used to receive rewards from games by sharing a game on Twitter — from all the links I shared of my favorite Youtuber, to all the tweets I sent in hopes of receiving free gift cards from scammy websites. Several tweets I wrote were about promoting my Youtube channel made in 2013.
In 2013, I made a Youtube channel for uploading my Minecraft gameplay videos. Though I have uploaded around seven or eight twenty-minute Minecraft videos, no one would be able to tell it was me because I didn’t use my real name. The only connection the youtube channel has with me is that it was created using my childhood email — which I don’t really use anymore.
Data From Data Broker
After viewing my embarrassing past, it made me curious about what an online data broker can find about me. I used Instant Checkmate to look for my publicly available data. The results were as expected, I wasn’t able to find any information about me. I tried different data broker websites, but nothing was found. At first, the only possible explanation I could think of was that I wasn’t a US citizen. However, when I searched my father’s name and city I was able to find him, even though he isn’t a US citizen as well. It showed me his phone number, all previous addresses we had, and family information. Surprisingly, I was mentioned in the family information page. Though they wrote my name as “So-min An”, I was clearly visible under my father’s name. As I was able to find information about my father, I came to the conclusion that I haven’t established much legal presence to have my data be publicly available to data brokers.
My Online Identity
Piecing all the information I could find, only the most basic information about me was publicly available, such as the city I lived in and my birth country. In order to view more in-depth information about me, they must be added as a friend. Any private information related to my hobbies I shared were only available up to 2015 as if my online identity stopped developing. As I imagined, there wasn't much public information available. However, there also wasn't any false information as well. Though most information about me was produced directly from myself, the only other possible way someone could know more about me was if they found a picture of myself included in someone else’s profile. However, I do not have much control over what others post and I will continue to keep my most sensitive information offline.
Through discovering what information about myself is available to the public, I’ve learned that having a name shared with a celebrity helps reduce my personal information pop up rate on search engines. However, if someone has the intent to track down my personal information and personal life through social media, they’ll definitely be able to find several pieces of data Once they have access to my Facebook private profile, they’ll be able see my personal information. Currently, I’m extremely happy that nothing was found through the searches I made with an online data broker. Although my name has been mentioned in my father’s online profile, I haven’t been able to find any personal information through Instant Checkmate.
Nonetheless, I’m sure my personal information including my phone number and past addresses will be available once I become an active member of society. Even if this ends up happening, I believe it’s important to try to limit the amount of information I share to the public sector of the internet. Everyone should always remember, whatever you share on the internet will stay there forever. I can control what information I share to the public, but I can’t control the information that has been spread by others.