Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Social search engines

As part of the aftermath of dealing with Rapleaf's appalling behaviour, I've been looking into the whole social search engine thing a bit more. You may like to try this too, to see what they have got on you. All searches were carried out this evening on my real name but with no geographical or other details, using the very handy list given in this article.

Spock claims to be the leader in these matters. It pulls up both my active LinkedIn profile, and a dud for an old address; but it pulls up two MySpace profiles, one of which belongs to a namesake of mine who was killed in Iraq last year, the other I suspect also a dud Myspace of his (wrong age but right home town and star sign).

Wink also pulls up the two LinkedIn profiles; also someone else's Bebo page (I have one too, but I hardly use it and anyway this appears to be someone else), and an Australian child's largely empty Windows Live page. It also pulls up eight web links, five of which are in fact material written and published by me, one media interview with me, a page about the Iraq casualty and another about a nineteenth century artist of the same name.

Ziki pulls up a rather unimpressive list of 82 web links; it's really not a lot different from what you'd get off Google, and the very first link given, to my home page, is now obsolete. There is a lot of repetition and news articles in foreign languages. About 85% of the results given are really me, with the Boorklyn marine in second place.PeekYou found one MySpace page belonging to someone in Florida. I'm rather surprised not to have come up - I'm not exactly invisible on the web. Maybe it only does Americans.

ZoomInfo pulls up no less than 37 separate hits on my name or its most obvious variant, mostly from media reports, book reviews, academic websites. 23 of these are in fact me. (The second most frequent hit here is a Canadian political activist.) The casual user would have to spend some time working out which of these are really me and which are not; and I have to say I don't mind the fact that it is not straightforward.

Pipl is rather impressive. It worked out (no doubt from my IP address) that I was probably interested in people from Belgium, and gave me the results of searches both with and without that restriction. With "Belgiunm" in the mix, pulls up my profile (but not my more frequently used profile), both LinkedIn profiles, and my rarely used MySpace page. Without "Belgium" it pulls up 20 "quick facts" of which no fewer than 19 are in fact about me (though mostly referring to out of date information). The 20th is about a nineteenth-century New York architect who I already knew about. Then there are another six links, including one to the ZoomInfo page I just reviewed, and finishes up with the standard Google searches. pulls up my rarely used Flickr page, and then a bunch of other people who share either my first name or my surname but not both.

Next is RapLeaf, but we're not using them.

Naymz doesn't have me and frankly I think I'd rather keep it that way.

WikiYou has a blank page with my name on it, and again I think I'd rather keep it that way.

So, in summary: Pipl scores well, in that it clearly only uses public sources but seems to go a bit better than yer standard search engine; RapLeaf, Naymz and WikiYou encourage you to register yourself, which I'm certainly not going to do, and RapLeaf and Naymz do badly on the creepiness factor; Spock, Wink, Ziki, ZoomInfo and are all a bit random and tend not to do any better than Google would; and PeekYou's inability to find me is just strange. (Google pulls up 28,500 hits on my name as a string; scanning through them, about 90% seem to be really me.)

Now, I'm fairly prominent in a number of fields, having stood for election to public office in 1990 and 1996, not to mention my various other activist activities, so I basically shrug and accept this as long as (unlike RapLeaf) the information has been gathered fairly. Those of you who feel more threatened by this sort of thing may want to try other methods. I'm interested in the ClaimID concept, and am playing with that as a possible way of centralising my own control of information about me on the web. But I think I will settle for just updating my website some time soon.
Tags: rapleaf

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