Stalking Or Due Diligence: Google Alerts Gone Bad?

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You’d never buy a company without knowing as much as possible about it.

And, you’d certainly never take a job without searching for everything you could find about the company and your potential boss online. You might even set up Google Alerts to track the mentions of the company and it’s senior or hiring officers to make sure you are up to speed on breaking news and chatter.

But, is it cool to tap Google Alerts to follow (aka “track) as much of the chatter, actions, movements and news on someone you hope to connect with on a business level in the future?

Or, is it just being really smart and doing your due diligence?

I asked a shortened version of this question on twitter, here are a few of the responses:

My thoughts are:

  • Yes, it’s a bit creepy, but
  • I’d do it, because you are simply gathering information that is publicly available in an effort to learn as much as possible about someone, before approaching them. It’s simple due diligence, but for the fact that there is now so much online and it’s so easy to gather.
  • As you sit here reading this, someone somewhere is already doing this…on you.

So, what do you guys think? Is this okay, or is it going too far?

What am I missing?

Let’s discuss…

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14 responses

14 responses to “Stalking Or Due Diligence: Google Alerts Gone Bad?”

  1. […] Go to the author’s original blog: Stalking Or Due Diligence: Google Alerts Gone Bad? […]

  2. I’m nodding right along, agreeing about the due diligence, and then you totally freaked me out with the idea that anyone is doing that to me.

    We all know that everything we put out there is for public consumption, and still.

    I met someone the other day that is friends with some of my blog friends. I should have known that she was aware of my blog and projects online, yet when she mentioned my magazine, it freaked me out a little. Why?

    I want people to be aware of my online work. And yet when they are? It feels creepy.

    Now then, Jonathan, what is that about?

    I’m going to set up a Google alert so that I can catch your reply and subsequent gossip about me on twitter… 😉

  3. Laura Roeder says:

    I hear words like “creepy” and “stalker” a lot in relation to this kind of online activity, and even find myself using them sometimes but it always strikes me as funny. That is the REASON these tools exist! The reason we use twitter, blogs, facebook whatever is to put a message out to the entire world. Then we are skeeved out when we achieve our desired purpose? It is very easy to make these things private, or just send an email to a group of friends instead of posting on a blog. But that isn’t what we choose to do.

  4. It’s not wrong at all to find out informations on about people and their business. That’s the whole point of social media and the communities that exist.

    As long we do not breech one’s privacy or security. Never attempt to be a threat to another.

    On another note, (previously summize) is best way to find out gossips about someone or their business on twitter. Im sure you are aware of that by now. Just adding 🙂

  5. Tina Winslow says:

    I actually have this exact scenario happening right now. I did work with an agency for a client that is a Fortune 500. That Fortune 500 company just hired a community manager who is (rightly so) active on Twitter.

    I’ve been sort of watching and trying to communicate with him in relevant ways and debating in my head, where that line is.

    I’m interested to see what others think…

  6. Jaklang says:

    Personally, I go through quite a lot of sites/blogs. Some are of relevance while some are in it just for a read. If it is not for this post, I would not have stop by and the fact that this issue sort of hit me recently.

    It is not really a bad idea to “gather” but how it was used that is creepy. I don’t mind people find out about me but how it was used that is not right.

  7. If you don’t want it known, don’t make it public in the first place. Putting it out there is the same as saying, “here I am, check it out.” The beauty of web 2.0 is the social aspect. You can’t have it both ways.

  8. Mark Silver says:

    My first hit is “Whoa! Let’s not overuse the word ‘stalking.'”

    If you park outside my house and watch me with binoculars, or follow me around as I do my errands, that’s stalking.

    If you hack into my machine and read my private emails, that’s stalking.

    But, I don’t have any objections to the Google alert tracking method- it’s just a pro-active Google search. I’m online because I want to be found.

    I don’t change clothes in the middle of the street, and I don’t put communications on the web that I want to be private- I keep them in email, behind firewalls, or in password-protected-non-Google-searched forums.

    However, on the other side, there are sites that track individual browsing/movements, and that gets a little creepy. For instance, if I’m visiting a website, and I’m not contacting the owner, leaving a comment, or otherwise making my presence known, then I’m not wanting to make contact. But tracking my movements with the equivalent of a video surveillance camera, that feels non-consensual and I’m not happy about it.

    Does that distinction make sense to you all?

  9. If you are going to put it out there, then be ready for people to see it…

    Although, I have been in the situation where people post photos of me on facebook and then tag me, and they are not flattering at all…I can remove the tag, sure, but there is this sinking feeling at the thoughts of others having already seen them. Image control has gotten so complicated.

    This hasn’t happened to me in the content arena as I am still crafting that awesome message I wish to share but once that happens I will have to deal with all the feedback, lack of feedback, and potential mis quoting that can happen.

    Is someone online stalking me? I set the sensitive stuff to private and I leave the intimate/personal stuff offline..what else can a girl do?


    Hara Om

  10. I have been burned a couple of times with information I’ve neglected to take down from the Web, thinking that most people weren’t as diligent with information gathering as I am. It always creeps me out when someone says, “oh, I heard such-and-such clip of you…” But again, I agree with the rest who have said that if you don’t want to share it, don’t publish it on the web.

    I mean, jeez!

  11. Justin says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with using Google Alerts to learn about a person or company. It’s not creepy at all. As you said, it’s all publicly available information, so what does it matter?

  12. Bryan Eye says:

    I would expect any resourceful person to use such tools. It is how they handle the intel that distinguishes them from being resourceful and being “stalkful”. Like money, there is no inherent good or “evil” in it… the user is the one that imbues those forces.

  13. I’ve been using Google Alerts for a long time, and I believe it is a very helpful application. Certainly nothing “stalkyish” about it at all.

  14. john says:

    Not creepy at all – this is the future. And it’s here now!