General Question

nikipedia's avatar

Is Googling someone an invasion of privacy?

Asked by nikipedia (27526points) June 26th, 2008

Seems sort of like eavesdropping to me—not really a horrible thing to do, but quite possibly bad manners.

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30 Answers

babygalll's avatar

I wouldn’t say invasion of privacy, but any information you find on someone is out there for a reason.

Jess's avatar

I googled some people from school just because I’m always online at work and wondered the same thing….................

I guess if it’s out there then it’s all good!

generalspecific's avatar

i always google a new love interest, just out of curiosity. i don’t really think it’s an invasion of privacy because it’s on the internet anyway. ah that’s just me though.

Skyrail's avatar

If it’s there publically on the internet then why should it be a problem? Unless that information is up there against the wishes of the person. But I guess morally it can be a bit unerving, how would you feel if you knew someone was googling you? I wouldn’t mind to be completely honest. But anyone else?

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I think the government looking at what we’re googling is an invasion of privacy. We should be worried about that, not us googling your name.

nikipedia's avatar

But that’s why I made the eavesdropping analogy. In theory, if you say something out loud, you’re making it publicly available to anyone within earshot, but I think we all have a reasonable expectation that others will choose not to sit in on your conversation uninvited. Am I alone here?

jlm11f's avatar

I don’t mind anyone googling me, I have done it myself and there’s nothing on there that I feel the need to hide. I have googled a couple of my friends for fun and have shown them the info available online about them, some of them were impressed, some freaked out and set their “privacy” levels on certain sites to beyond paranoid. I think everyone should google their full name every now and then to make sure something about them or their life isn’t up there against their wishes. If it is, you can always email the site admin and get it removed. So to answer the question directly, No i don’t think its an invasion of privacy but I do think that people need to be more aware of the information out there about themselves.

Harp's avatar

Posting something on the web would be more analogous to saying something with a bullhorn. You may be intending it for a certain listener, but by choosing that means of communication I think you implicitly cede any rights to privacy.

nikipedia's avatar

@Harp: I disagree. With a bullhorn, anyone within earshot is forced to hear what you’re saying whether they like it or not. If you Google someone, you are explicitly seeking out information that person did not direct toward you.

Harp's avatar

But my point is that the listener can’t be held ethically liable for listening if the speaker has ceded his right to privacy by using a clearly public means of communication.

nikipedia's avatar

@Harp: I’m interested in the line between “can” and “should”. Yes, the information is publicly available and anyone can find it. But should you? If I wanted you to know this about me, wouldn’t I have told it to you?

So at what point is the right to privacy ceded? If someone from my past blogs about me using my full name, I don’t have control over that being Google-able. If I wrote a letter to the editor for a print newspaper once upon a time and that newspaper has been put on the internet, did I cede my right to privacy by putting it in print in the first place? And so on and so forth.

wildflower's avatar

Google is in the public domain. It’s no more an invasion than reading about someone in a paper.

vectorul's avatar

Anything that is accessible to a reasonable person is not a violation of privacy. If a reasonable person cannot acquire information without using a system that is not accessible to all people then the information received from such a system is considered a violation of privacy.
Therefore; Google which is accessible to a reasonable person is not considered a violation of privacy.

Harp's avatar

By doing or saying anything in a public way, I recognize that I have no control over who will see or hear me. My intent may not be that person X hear or see me, but I’m consciously opening the door to that possibility. From that point on, I can’t be wronged by person X’s having knowledge of what I did or said. Mr. X is on solid ethical ground.

nikipedia's avatar

@Harp: But non-public information can be disseminated via the internet just as easily as public information. And it doesn’t feel sort of creepy and stalkerish to you? At all?

Magnus's avatar

Yes they read your emails for no reason at all, but I still use it since it’s the best online email client yet I’m afraid.

Trustinglife's avatar

I just Googled myself, and found that my MySpace page came up first. That’s weird – I never use it anymore. Is it really that popular? Do you know how do page rankings work for people’s names? Sorry if this is somewhat off-topic.

Knotmyday's avatar

@niki- Not here to change your opinion.
But if you want to read something entertaining, see reasonable expectation of privacy,
public domain, stalker protection, and the privacy rights clearinghouse.
By the way, I googled them all. Happy reading!

Harp's avatar

As in other ethical considerations, it comes down to intent. If you’re going out looking for material that I have attempted to keep in the private domain, or if you’re looking for a way to infringe on my rights or do harm to me then yes, that would be creepy and stalkerish. But if you’re looking for material that I myself have leaked out into the public sphere, that’s legitimate.

The possibility that there may be material out there that was put there without my knowledge or consent doesn’t ethically compromise you in acting with legitimate intent.

delirium's avatar

Saying something online is akin to publishing it in the newspaper…

Trustinglife's avatar

Including here?

playthebanjo's avatar

Yes, I googled Fluther and a topic and there it was, for everyone to see, everyone who participated in that thread. My son’s teacher googled me because she was looking for my site with my jewelry. She told me and I didn’t care. I then went home and googled myself and it was an eye opener for me. My mother’s voice came into my head, for years telling me over and over “be careful what you put out there in cyberspace.” It did come back to bite me on the arse! I made some of my things more private (like Myspace for example) and now, I always think twice about what I write to make sure it isn’t going to come back to haunt me!

thebeadholder's avatar

All I have to say is OOPS…Faux pas! Sorry Banjo :-( You were wrong and one of the past threads that talked about this has now it happened (could not find that thread). Thought I was still logged in…my bad! Cat’s out of the bag now!

Trustinglife's avatar

Good thing my username here isn’t my real name!
(Although I haven’t made it very hard to track me.)

Skyrail's avatar

mhm. I googled my real name and it turns out I’m not the only person with my name and my age funnily enough. Using my username I’m sure a lot could be found out would surprise me, no idea, I’ll be sure to check haha.

delirium's avatar

this is why my usernames are all real words.

scamp's avatar

Try googling me sometime. You won’t find a thing!! My name is too common.

babygalll's avatar

@ scamp: John Smith?

scamp's avatar

ha ha, yep, that’s me!! Or you could check under my alias… Jane Doe!!

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