Is googling your best friend from preschool going nowhere? If you suspect that he might be lurking on a social-networking site, you can try to find him with YoName, a people-search engine that looks across MySpace, LinkedIn, Digg, Facebook, Friendster, Match, and Xanga.
There are other social-site crawlers, such as Upscoop beta, which shows who in your Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, or AOL address book uses MySpace, LinkedIn, or other sites. There's a lot of buzz already around the unreleased Spock people finder. Loopster and ProfileLinker beta sift through various networks and let you see when friends update their pages. The brilliance of YoName is that it e-mails you when somebody else has found you through YoName, likely to pique your curiosity and prompt a visit to the site. Plus, you can use it without logging in.
To be fair, YoName remains in beta testing, but I'm not so impressed by its search capabilities. You can't refine by age or location, for instance. And of the 8.5 million Jennifers pinpointed by YoName on MySpace, I could only view the first 10 people.
If you're really stalking someone, then turn to ZabaSearch instead. Let me rephrase that. Please, don't stalk anyone. If you can't afford for someone to stalk you, which is no laughing matter, then ask YoName to remove your listing. You used to be able to snail-mail a letter to ZabaSearch asking to be removed from its rolls. Now, that ZabaSearch has hidden its mailing address, however, it offers these inconvenient suggestions, relinquishing itself of the responsibility for your data (the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has more).
It's perfectly legal for someone to mine your data from the Internet and from public databases, then make it accessible in one simple search field. You can't hide unless you actively remove yourself from digital lists and also refrain from creating a virtual presence on the Web. If you're a regular on social-networking sites, then keep your profile private and don't post personal photos. If you're easily embarrassed, now would be a good time to stop using your personal e-mail address or any username that resembles your real name for making gushing posts to, say, that Abba fan club Web site.
For more potentially creepy Web news, see Josh Lowensohn's post on Google Web History.