What is Counter-Googling?

To google a person is to look up the person’s name and information on the Internet via search engines like Google. Most of us have done it at one time or another, and we also use search engines to research businesses we might want to use or companies that could hire us. It’s pretty standard to Google persons or entities to get some extra information about them. It isn’t a stretch to imagine that businesses might want information about each of us too. Welcome to the world of counter-googling.

With so many of us contributing regularly to the Internet via things like blogs and personal web pages or social media sites like Facebook, we’ve put a ton of personal information into cyberspace that is fairly easily accessed by other people. In the early 2000s, businesses started taking advantage of this by counter-googling or looking things about customers and potential customers. Information gleaned might be used to provide more personalized service or to tailor different types of sales offers to individuals. Companies looking to hire you may often practice counter-googling to make sure they’re not hiring someone who isn’t going to be a good fit.

There are some people who find the trend toward counter-googling a violation of privacy. On the other hand, most people are not forced to disclose personal details about themselves on the Internet. What you say, write or do that you plan to discuss in detail isn’t private since you have disclosed it in a public forum. Moreover counter-googling can be a fairly innocent practice. Companies like high-end hotels may use it to determine how to best serve a brand new customer. If Jean R. Smith blogs about the glory of massages, then it makes sense for a high-end resort to let Ms. Smith know about spa services at the resort.

Yet counter-googling may not always be this innocent. If you get the sense that a sales person knows you too well, and is using personal information about you to make a sale, that can be just a little creepy. Some people use the comparison that it is like being in “the Matrix” if someone knows much more about your personal life than they should from a few chance meetings.

How can you avoid counter-googling? If you have an Internet presence linked to your full name, it may be impossible to avoid it all times. You can use social media sites that protect your identity and allow minimal perusal of your info without invitation.

It also makes sense to realize that many Internet sites are public, and that when you disclose information you are telling it to a very large community. If you want to keep counter-googling to a minimum, be careful what you write and only share those things about yourself that you want other people (strangers) to know. Recognize that any information you share on public sites may become fair game for businesses.