Magazine article Information Today

Naked in Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information Online

Magazine article Information Today

Naked in Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information Online

Article excerpt

Personal records have been around for a long time. Tax rolls, credit reports, birth certificates, and court filings are just some of the records that have always been accessible to the public. However, two factors limiting their use were time and distance: how far away these paper records were located and how long it took to manually search for a particular piece of information.

In the past few years, this has changed dramatically. Billions of records are now available electronically. They can be found on CD-ROM, through online databases, or on the Internet. They may be free, or there may be a charge. Above all, personal records are far easier to find and use than ever before. Author Carole Lane uses telephone books as an example: "It takes 10,000 or so telephone books to store all the numbers for all the phones in the United States . . . yet a national telephone directory can be compressed into a few CD-ROMs that take up no more space than a paperback book." Information professionals can now access all this data from their office computers, eliminating the need for time-consuming visits to the library or county courthouse.

Naked In Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information Online is a guide to information about individuals that is available in various computer formats. Lane is intimately familiar with personal information databases; she spent many years as a database systems analyst before opening her research firm TechnoSearch in 1993. She has researched individuals as part of her business as well as written articles and given presentations on the topic.

Naked In Cyberspace is intended for both information professionals and general consumers. It can be read from beginning to end for an overview, or users may simply refer to the chapters covering topics of current interest. Overall, the book is essentially an annotated bibliography of online sources, divided by topic.

Five introductory chapters discuss database use, the Internet, and privacy laws. The body of the book focuses on specific types of personal information and how to find them. Lane includes chapters on asset searches, telephone directories, criminal justice records, public records, tax records, and genealogy, among others. Seventy-five pages of appendices furnish extensive lists of databases of various types. A thorough index is also provided.

To accompany the book, Pemberton Press-Naked In Cyberspace's publisher-has developed a Web site (http:// that follows the format of the print version. …

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