Websites may be hoarding your personal info, experts say

- When was the last time you Googled yourself? If it was more than three months ago you may want to do it again – and make it a regular habit, experts say.

“Google your own name, Google your address and just see what comes up,” Tyler Olson, a social media and cyber security expert, suggests, “often times there's more than what you'd want on each of those sites.”

Surprised to learn how much websites like FamilyTreeNow.com or TruePeopleSearch.com reveal to anyone with access to the internet, Olson warns of sites like these and hundreds of others like them.

“Each of these sites have more information than what I would've expected,” Olson said, “my past six, seven addresses, my executive assistant's name is attached to me, all of that is out there!” he exclaimed.

Which means an unlimited amount of perfect strangers have access to your age, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. Even your personal connections, such as the names of immediate relatives, are fair game.

“It's easier and easier for developers to do automated skims of anything on the internet,” Olson explained of how the information is accessed in the first place.

What’s scarier is that FamilyTreeNow.com or TruePeopleSearch.com and similar websites share your delicate information for free.

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“There [are] enough people searching for people, phone numbers, or e-mail addresses that it's valuable to make a website off of it,” he says of developers that operate the websites on advertising alone, “they can buy publicly available data from the government,” Olson says of another likely source the site creators use.

So what you can do to protect yourself? The first step is making sure you opt-out of each of these websites. Each of these sites should directly link you to an “opt-out” option usually found at the bottom of the webpage.

“Opting-out” helps keep your personal information as private as possible.

From there, Olson suggests you establish a “healthy digital routine.” The routine should include Googling your name and address every 1-3 months.

“If we create habits for ourselves around searching for our own names our addresses, our phone numbers, changing our passwords on a regular basis, being mindful of only being on sites that are encrypted all of that is going to help us today and into the future,” Olson candidly shared of our ever-elusive privacy in the digital age that he projects will only continue to diminish.

“It's going to get increasingly creepier, unfortunately.”

Olson plans to share even more cyber security tips at Ignite Minneapolis, Thursday May 11th at the University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Hall, at 7p.m.

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