3 On Your Side Investigates: Google surprise - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates: Google surprise

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - You might see Google as a helpful tool, a harmless search engine. But you might not know what it's capable of.

"It's something you don't really have control over," says Madison Police Department Investigator Shannon Beaver.  He's trained in cyber crimes, but not every invasion of privacy is a criminal act. If your phone number is listed, Beaver says, try dropping it into a Google search.

"You can probably find out exactly where they live through Google Earth, Google Maps. You can also zoom into their residence, get a satellite shot overhead," he says.

3 On Your Side pulled a few random numbers with addresses out of the phone book.  We plugged a Pearl phone number into a Google search. Right away, an address came up, attached to the phone number. We then clicked on Google Earth, and found an aerial view of the area. We zoomed in and clicked on street view, and had a picture of the front door of the residence. We were then able to rotate the camera to look at other houses on the street.

It works with some listed phone numbers, but not all. The satellite images may be several months old.

"You can zoom into the front door on some of them. You can see what vehicles might be in the driveway at the time the picture was taken," Beaver says.

Google's information clearinghouse doesn't stop at satellite maps. 3 On Your Side recently searched Google for information on a 19-year-old in the news. Our query pulled up chancery court records from 2009, including a guardianship case involving the teen.

A treasure trove of your court cases may be online too, available to anyone with the click of a mouse.

Internet search engines will continue to reveal such information. But you can make your information a little harder to find by unlisting your phone number.

"You gotta take steps yourself of not being on social networks, things of that nature," Beaver adds.

You can also do what Eudora Welty Library Reference Librarian David Huskins did.

Huskins uses Google all the time to help customers. He decided to type in "Google phonebook name removal" and fill out the online form to keep his information off the search engine's listings.

"If you're at all worried about security, you should do that," Huskins says.

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