Searching for Personal Information

Often when reading an article or technical paper by a professor or journalist I want to find info about them. So in this post I’m listing some of the techniques for getting information. Many of them come from the book “Google Hacking“.

1. Google the person’s name:

As a first step this often works with professors who have uncommon last names (it’ll usually take you to the professors websites). For people with common common surnames and first names this does not always yield the best info.

To narrow down the search results you can try searching with the middle name or middle initial. But this often times discards relevant results. Also try searching for “name + family” or “name + homepage” or do a google blog search of the persons name.

Even better use “name + job” or “name + major” or “name + city” or “name + school”, where “job” is their current or past job (such as programmer, nurse, etc.), “major” is what they majored or minored in for college, “city” is a current or past city they’ve lived in, and “school” is a school that they’ve attended.

2. Search Google using their email address if you have one:

The good thing is that email addresses are almost unique so almost always all the search results are relevant. The bad thing is that often you don’t get any search hits.

3. Search Google Groups with the person’s email address. Usually only works when searching for info on technical people (such as programmers, mathematicians, etc.).

4. Search Amazon with the person’s username (try there email id for the username)

Only works if the person has a common user id that they use across websites. I often use bjwbell for my user id, so if you search “bjwbell” it’ll return my profile. Sadly most people don’t use the same user id across websites. So this technique doesn’t have a high rate of success.

5. Search MySpace for their email or name.

Not useful for getting info on professors (no prof. that I know of maintains a MySpace page) but good for ordinary people (such as school teachers, students, etc) who have MySpace pages.

6. Search court records

This needs a whole post all by itself. The effort in searching online court databases is considerable since usually you have to search county by county (such as

The above 5 techniques (the sixth one I’ll elaborate on in a future post) are good ways for tracking down info on people who participate in online activities.


One thought on “Searching for Personal Information

  1. Pingback: Startup Idea « A blog on math

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