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Internet

Readers play sleuth, come up empty

Poll Nearly half the respondents to the latest NEWS.COM Poll have used the Net to check up on someone, but many have come up empty-handed.

Poll Nearly half of NEWS.COM readers have in fact used the Net to check up on someone, but of those who go sleuthing over the Net, many come up empty-handed, according to the latest NEWS.COM Poll.

Searches turn up some surprises
"I run into a lot of email from people that I need to verify information on...I've actually stumbled onto more information than they probably knew about--awards they've won, sports teams they've played on--even graduation information."
-Anonymous
 
Of the 273 readers who responded to the poll, 47 percent have gone online to find out more information about someone. But only 41 percent of those who snooped online found what they were looking for.

Most poll respondents were just looking to locate somebody, mostly old friends or relatives, and used nothing move invasive than search engines and online phone books to do it. But some have experimented to see how much you could find out about somebody online, just as I did last week on assignment as an online detective. (See related story)

One reader, Craig Humphrey, looked for information about himself and discovered a few things that he didn't know before: that there are a lot of Craig Humphreys out there; that people he had met years ago remembered him and mentioned him on their Web pages; and that a lot of the electronic directories had him listed under obsolete addresses.

Humphrey said he updated the directories just in case someone wanted to track him down.

Many NEWS.COM readers have discovered the same thing: despite the widespread publicity about the availability of private information online, it's not as easy as it sounds and a lot of the information you do find is just plain wrong.

  Online sleuthing disappointing
"I didn't find as much information as I wanted about people. In some instances, I looked for people or information I already knew and was unable to find it."
-Anonymous
Still, watch out if you're a user who participates in online chat sessions or Usenet postings. Your fellow Netizens could be checking up on you.

One reader said he regularly uses the Net to find out more about people that he talks to online. "I run into a lot of email from people that I need to verify information on," he wrote. "I often strip their domain names and visit their ISP. When on IRC, I've used ISPs 'who's online' services to trace the originator of the message."

An ironic postscript on this story: most of the people who sent in email responses to the poll asked for the names to be withheld in this story.