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How much info can you find about someone if you know just their name and the county they live in?

How much info can you find about someone
Snooper's paradise: you don't need much data to build a profile

This was the challenge I was set by BBC Radio Sussex, who gave me the name of one of their producers and the county she lived in. The only other thing I knew about this woman was that she worked for the BBC.

If you want to listen to how shocked the producer, Jess, is to discover what I found about her, listen to Danny Pike’s morning show on BBC iPlayer here¬†(scroll forward to 1hr 8mins into the show to hear the specific item).

A few things to bear in mind: BBC Radio Sussex threw me something of a curveball. They gave me Jess’s maiden name, not her married name. And Jess is pretty savvy about online privacy – she’d locked down her Twitter account, so only followers could see her tweets, for example.

Yet, despite those barriers, in only an hour or two of searching online, I’d managed to find the following data and much more that I can’t reveal:

  • Full married and maiden name
  • Date of birth
  • Occupation
  • Home address and value of property
  • Full names and occupations of several of her neighbours
  • Previous home address and name/married name of person she shared the flat with
  • Her child’s name, date and time of birth, and birth weight
  • The breed and colour of her dog
  • The date, church and location of where she was married, plus much more detail about the wedding, including guests, photographer, entertainment etc
  • Her husband’s full name, date of birth, occupation, current and previous employers, his university degree and several of his interests
  • Many photographs of her, her child, her husband, her wedding photos, a photo taken just moments after the birth of her daughter
  • Full details of nine of her friends and colleagues, who could potentially be targeted by a social media attack pretending to be Jess

Story in a nutshell: even if you think you’re careful about how much personal information you share online, it’s ridiculously easy to dig up a highly detailed and intrusive profile of you and your family.

Read Next: What does Twitter think you’re interested in?

Picture credit: Chase Elliott Clark

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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