I google my coworkers — is that weird?

A reader writes:

I was recently dialed into a large internal meeting. Due to a recent merger, this was my team’s first time interacting with some of the members of our sister company. In parallel, my manager (Luke), another coworker (Leia), and I were messaging in a private group IM.

Luke asked Leia and me if we knew which time zone one of our newer coworkers was based out of. I did not think the question was odd since we are a global company and we were discussing scheduling a follow-up meeting. No one knew the answer, so I did a quick google search of “coworker name, company” and pasted the coworker’s LinkedIn tagline (including region and position at sister company) into the IM box with the commentary “used google.”

Both Luke and Leia seemed surprised that I would google a coworker. I then reiterated that while I occasionally googled coworkers, I only do so to find their LinkedIn profile. Sometimes I am interested in information like past jobs or university attended. I thought this was appropriate use as LinkedIn is a public and professional networking site. I don’t look deep into google history or look at any pages or social media that I would consider personal.

It is sometimes hard to understand tone from an IM conversation, but I really think they were shocked. Am I off-base here? When, if ever, is googling a coworker appropriate?

Looking up a new coworker’s LinkedIn profile isn’t weird! Not everyone does it, but plenty of people do. It’s not unusual to want to learn a little about a new colleague’s professional background.

It would be overstepping if you went pages and pages into their search results, read their old Livejournal from high school, and scrutinized their wedding registry or marathon scores or whatever other personal stuff a search might turn up. But checking their LinkedIn is something a lot of people will do. (And it’s LinkedIn! It’s a business site. It’s not like you’re trying to find new hires on Tinder.)

And certainly in the context that you did it in, it was a perfectly logical way to get the information you needed, and it’s surprising that your manager and coworker were taken aback by it.

{ 307 comments… read them below }

  1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    This is totally normal. As long as you’re keeping it refined to LinkedIn. And not, I don’t know, showing up at the store an employee’s husband owns and demanding he take a resume to someone. THAT would be crossing the line. But googling to find their LinkedIn? Completely normal.

  2. CTT*

    Agree with Alison, although I think if you had initially said the info was from LinkedIn it might have seemed less odd to them than saying “used google” because it could have implied to them that you got it from a personal online source rather than a professional one. Although once you explained that you only ever are looking for someone’s LinkedIn, it shouldn’t seem weird.

    1. Roscoe*

      Agree, saying you found them on LinkedIn has a much better connotation, because that is usually much less information.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I agree. That is the part that threw people off. Someone asked a legit work question and needed an answer. You provided the answer. If you’d replied, “I checked Boba Fett’s corporate location on his LinkedIn profile,” results in, “good idea! I should’ve done that”
      But writing, “I googled his information and found his LinkedIn.” results in “HOLY CRAP, HAN IS GOOGLING EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERY COWORKER!”
      because, well, people are weird.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, this was my thought. If you’d phrased it as ‘I checked LinkedIn’, rather than ‘I used Google’ I don’t think it would have elicited the same response.
      Even if you personally prefer to go through google to get to LinkedIn, rather than just checking LinkedIn directly, I would phrase it, in future, as checking LinkedIn.

      Does your organisation not have an internal staff directory?

      1. Safetykats*

        This – and also because the most direct way to check someone’s LinkedIn is through LinkedIn, not through Google. That’s the thing that would have struck me as odd about it – the reference to Google implies a lot more than checking LinkedIn.

  3. Ophelia*

    OP, I also do this all the time, but typically say something like, “found this on linkedin: [insert info]” or whatever so it’s clear I’m not stalking their private information.

  4. Roscoe*

    I think if you truly use it JUST for LinkedIN, then its totally fine. However, I would say I feel like many people may intend to look just for that, but then will see other “juicy” search results, and don’t necessarily resist. Like “well I really just wanted to see their time zone, but then I decided to look at their college, then I realized they went to college at the same time as a friend, I wonder if they know each other” and it keeps going.

    1. Dino*

      Why would any of that be bad? How is seeing what college someone went to a “juicy” search result?

      1. Roscoe*

        I’m just saying that doing that can lead to looking them up on other social media and in other ways. Knowing what college someone went to isn’t bad. But I do feel like people have these opinions that they are entitled to know everything.

        Or you get your info from LinkedIn, but then you see another article about them, or blog they wrote, or anything that their name comes up.

        1. Coalea*

          As long as the information is in the public domain, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking at it.

        2. Kj*

          I think blogs I wrote, events I participated in are fine for employers and others to see. I’d feel weird if a coworker looked me up on facebook, but I have that locked down fairly well. But things on google are fine for others to see. I’m just glad that my old cross country times stopped showing up! For years they were the first result when googling me, and while I was proud of a sub 12 minute 2 mile, it wasn’t what I wanted my boss knowing about me first- I’d rather them see my blog on an academic subject. It was never a problem, just funny.

    2. Eliza Jane*

      I admit — the last time I interviewed somewhere, I looked at my interviewer’s LinkedIn, saw that he went to the same HS as me, and went through old yearbooks looking for him. He was there — a senior when I was a freshman. The knowledge made me feel kind of squicky during the interview — I knew something he didn’t, and I got the info by digging deeper than I probably should have. I wouldn’t advise digging into coworkers very much.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        How do you know he didn’t know? If he was in your yearbook, you were in his.

        1. Eliza Jane*

          My HS wasn’t listed on my LinkedIn page (I didn’t graduate from that school), and I went by a different name then, anyway. He would have had to employed some powerful sleuthing skills to find that, and we never knew each other for him to recognize me, even if that was likely after 25 years.

      2. Gumby*

        I would think looking at LinkedIn before an interview is just… doing your research. I might even mention it if it was germane to the conversation because: cared enough about the job to do your research. I might not mention “and then I looked in the yearbook and saw you were on the tennis team and …”

      3. Greg*

        How’s this for squicky? I once Googled the hiring manager who would be interviewing me, and I found a page that showed her mug shot from a DWI arrest. I didn’t feel dirty for Googling her — I think it is actually valuable to go deep on interviewers in order to have a better idea of who they are — but the mug shot was something I instantly wished I could un-see (especially since it was a DWI; not to minimize the offense, but knowing someone got popped for DWI does not make me think any less of them as a potential boss. I suppose if she had been arrested for armed robbery, or bank fraud, that might have given me more concern.)

        By the way, a couple years after that I read a whole article about sites that post mug shots online, and then extort people into paying to have them removed. Then I felt even worse for her.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          First, the people who are behind those sites that extort people to take down mug shots are the scum of the earth—especially since they sometimes get the information wrong (supposedly by mistake and definitely not just so they can take a shot at extorting more people who don’t know what to do).

          Second, I absolutely respect someone more for armed robbery, or bank fraud, than for getting popped for a DWI. I know too many people who were murdered sorry, “involuntarily manslaughtered” by drunk drivers to think someone who does that has any concept of responsibility or concern for other people.

          1. Greg*

            I get what you’re saying, but I disagree. Someone who has committed armed robbery would scare me because they have demonstrated a capacity for violence that is way outside of what I view as normal. DWI is horrible, and no one should do it, ever. Yet 1.5 million people get arrested for it every year, according to the NTSB, and presumably many more people do it without getting caught. I’m not willing to write all of those people off as irredeemable, especially without knowing the circumstances (by contrast, I’m not sure what possible circumstances could justify armed robbery.)

  5. AthenaC*

    I mean … the whole purpose of LinkedIn is to be public and easy to find. It’s basically the world’s largest networking mixer, but online instead of in-person.

    As such, I think the list of “acceptable” reasons to look for someone’s LinkedIn is very, very broad. In your case, there’s plenty of utility in knowing the time zone where your coworker sits – it’s always something I try to keep in mind as I work with colleagues from coast to coast.

    I don’t know what’s up with the people that were “shocked” by it – by chance, they aren’t people who are under the mistaken impression that their public, online information should be private somehow?

    1. Roscoe*

      Well what “should be” private and what is private are very different. Just because certain things can be found on google, doesn’t mean as a co-worker you should take that as a sign to learn everything you can about a person

      1. CTT*

        And there’s old stuff on there too – for the longest time one of the first page google hits for my name was an amazon book review I did at age 12. Which is public and not the Most Embarrassing Thing, but also not something I would email to my co-workers because I think all should see it.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Ha, same, for a long time mine was a VERY detailed review of the Evita original cast recording that I wrote when I was in junior high. I’m very grateful there aren’t more of my middle school opinions out there for public consumption.

          Googling people is an interesting phenomenon because most people do it, but we all kind of have to act like we don’t, or at least make sure it’s not super transparent. I agree that it’s not that weird that the OP googled for this information (though it does sound like an opportunity for better internal communications between the companies — ideally they’d have a directory with this info) but it is kind of uncommon that they said it so directly.

          1. Luna*

            I wonder if they do in fact have a directory (many large companies do) and that’s why the coworkers thought it was weird that LW went straight to Google rather than the company directory.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              I work for a very large organization and it’s honestly easier to use Google than try to navigate our labyrinthine website. If I need to find a specific policy or office or department I’ll google [thing I’m looking for] [organization]. It is approximately 9 thousand times faster than starting at [organization]dot com.

              1. AthenaC*

                I do that whenever I want to find anything my company has published for external distribution. It’s technically available internally through a maze of mouse-clicks through slow-loading websites. But Googling is way WAY faster.

            2. OP Googler*

              OP Here – we haven’t gotten to the point in the merger yet where we have a consolidated employee directory. Otherwise, I would have gone that route instead of searching for their LinkedIn.

      2. Antilles*

        Just because certain things can be found on google, doesn’t mean as a co-worker you should take that as a sign to learn everything you can about a person
        I mean, the obvious equivalent of this is public records requests. I mean, if I have your name, there’s all sorts of information on you available via public records – I can find your home address, when you bought your house and what you paid for it, if 9-1-1 has ever been there, any current/past lawsuits involving you, your driving record, and tons of other stuff. All public information, available online or through various local/state FOIA records requests.
        And yet, it would be absolutely creepy as heck to look up all that about a co-worker without some obvious reason.

        1. Autumnheart*

          You can find most of that information just by googling it. You don’t have to do a FOIA request, just be good at choosing unique search terms. Most sites that advertise public records searches will provide some of that information just as a lure to get people to pay for a report. And then you can use it to look up their FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and since most people tend to use the same username from account to account, you can search for *that* and find their Reddit posts and Youtube comments and Amazon customer profile and email addresses and all kinds of stuff.

        2. Roscoe*

          Yep. I love that you included what you paid for your house. Because that is public info, but most people would find that weird if you admitted to looking that up about a co-worker. It just seems people have various lines of what is “acceptable” to look up that is public.

          Personally, when it comes to co-workers, I try to keep it to things that involve work

          1. Antilles*

            I included it because I’m fairly certain that a lot of people *don’t* realize that basically all the information about your house is located at your municipal Tax Assessor’s website that you could pull up right now, no questions asked, on your smartphone/computer. The formal name of the buyer, the entire sales history and purchase prices, the most recent assessment, the square footage, the annual taxes, maybe even sketches of the interior layout.
            But it would absolutely seem odd if you looked that up about a co-worker or friend. I agree, keeping it to just work-related stuff is really the way to go.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Judging by the number of upset people I got when I would pull up their septic permitting history & date of house built working at the county health department, yeah, a very large number of people do not know what information is out there totally public. I also had a lot of people call trying to block their septic permitting history (or lack thereof) because they didn’t believe it could be public and didn’t want a realtor to be able to pass the info on to a potential buyer that their well was located within 15 ft of their septic system and therefore wouldn’t pass a deed transfer inspection.

              Then again I also had people furious with me for not knowing that someone illegally installed a crappy ill functioning septic system with no permit/certification 25 years ago, but they just bought the house and how dare you let this happen to ME in particular?!!!! We have no money to replace anything!!!! Well, Public Service Announcement – *before* you buy the house, get a home inspection. Get a septic inspection if you’re on septic. Get the well checked out if you have a well. Get your water tested. Get any old permits from the county departments. Please, for the love, use the public records for the reason they’re there to begin with, and do your due diligence.

              But don’t creep on people and reread their entire 12 year old self’s blog about Furbies, or find out how many properties your coworker owns around town, because that’s pretty darn weird to do.

              1. DecorativeCacti*

                I found all of that when I was going through the house buying process. I searched for every record possible. You can find a ton of information with just an address. Even the house hunting apps (Redfin, Zillow) have a information on houses that aren’t currently for sale.

          2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            And if you know what county they live in, you can look up the current value of that home, how much their property taxes were, etc…

            I’ve definitely used that to look at my neighbors’ homes and used the info to protest my own property taxes.

            1. Autumnheart*

              I looked it up before buying my house so I would know what I could expect to pay (I’m the first owner, so there were no previous records for my property specifically).

      3. AthenaC*

        I was speaking more of the people out there who voluntarily put information out on social media and are then shocked – shocked! – that other people know said information.

  6. Autumnheart*

    That being said, anything posted in the public domain is by definition not private information. You’ll look like the weirdo in the group if you reveal that you looked up someone’s information on their publicly available social media, but I would say that people should remember that when one posts things in public, the public can and does read it.

    1. CM*

      I agree, I don’t think it’s shocking at all to Google somebody, even if you are looking at their high school LiveJournal, as long as you’re not doing anything inappropriate with that information. In this case it was particularly innocuous.

      1. Nita*

        It’s not shocking! But it may not be a good idea. What if you find out something that makes working with this person really awkward? I’m not talking criminal activity, just… let’s say they think they’re dating an anime character, or have been taking risque selfies in what seems to be their old office’s bathroom?

        1. Jenn*

          You engage in a mind game of plausible deniability and pretend that’s their oddly exactly named long lost cousin who looks exactly like them, of course. Unless it’s company property involved.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Well, ideally you would mentally file it under None of My Business and compartmentalize, same as if you found it out via other means (ran into them at the local swinger’s club etc).

          But there are people who loooooove to gossip and who won’t hesitate to blab someone’s business to all and sundry, and whose passion in life is making mountains out of molehills. If anyone is thinking right now, “Um, maybe I should take that piece of sensitive information off my profile,” maybe you should.

      2. Luna*

        It’s not shocking to Google somebody, I’m sure most of us do it fairly often- but I would never admit to that person/others in the group that I googled them!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think some of this is also about how you disclose that you googled someone. A lot of people Google people they meet or work with. But in most cases, you don’t actually disclose that you googled someone or reveal information that you would only know because you googled them. It’s often the disclosure that you actually Googled someone that usually freaks other people out.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I think of it like if you drive by a coworker’s house and notice the color of drapes in their living room. You can privately notice the color of the drapes all you like, but it gets really weird really fast as soon as you mention it to them. It feels invasive, even though you never set foot on their property.

        1. Admin of Sys*

          +1 for the analogy. I think intentionality is some of it too – if you stumble across the information and inform people of such, that’s fine. Driving through a neighborhood and noticing coworker Bob is gardening is fine, and I think you can mention it to him the next day at work. I’ve absolutely had people tell me they noticed me at events I’ve performed at, which doesn’t seem creepy at all.
          But it’s different to deliberately look up his address and drive by to see his house.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Tying this together with an earlier question, a coworker gave me a ride home one time, and now she can’t stop talking about my nice house (which I don’t own)!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s a great analogy and so accurate. It’s essentially the distinction between being curious and being a creeper.

        3. Birch*

          This is a great analogy. I’m kind of surprised that people think Googling coworkers is weird… but in academia I think we’re splashed all over the internet, especially in my field where an errant Google usually turns up published articles, department websites, conference proceedings, LinkedIn plus all the academic medias (ResearchGate, etc.), methodology forums, project websites, and usually a personal/professional blog or band website, too. I even Google for photos of lecture and conference speakers so I’ll put the face to the name in memory, or try to find a photo before I have a meeting with someone I haven’t met in person before so I’ll recognize them. I don’t know if people would think that’s weird to say aloud, but how else would you recognize them? There’s so much basic, innocuous information about your work that is such a waste of time to go back and forth telling people when they need to know that it’s reasonable to put it out there and assume people will look for it.

          1. Annie Moose*

            Ha, I google for photos too. I’m really bad with names and faces so I need all the help I can get!

    3. Roscoe*

      Sure, but where is your line. If someone’s spouse is a public employee, in many places you can look that up. That doesn’t mean you should. But it is public.

  7. Nita*

    No, that seems totally normal. And they did ask the question that prompted you to look! How did they expect you to find the answer, read the guy’s mind?

    1. Dino*

      Me too. I don’t go to page 5 of a Google search result but anything in the person’s professional/legal name with a public privacy setting is fair game in my book.

      1. animaniactoo*

        And that is why people with unique names (I’m the only one of me in the entire US) can be scrupulous about locking down their privacy settings and not using their real/full names on every site they can get away with it. I was PISSED at Photobucket when I discovered (during a routine search check) that my not-logged-into-for-5-years account was now showing my previously hidden full name alongside my common used everywhere alias in the search results.

        1. Espeon*

          Yes I’ve got two FB profiles – the one with my real name in English where my family and coworkers think they’re proper friends with me (but that I just rarely use FB), then the real one with my name in my second language, muh haha! Both are as locked-down as they can be also.

          1. LCL*

            I had thought that Facebook’s terms of service prohibited having more than 1 profile? Not criticizing, just asking. I’m not on Facebook so don’t know for sure, but have heard that before.

            1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

              Facebook’s terms of service also say that you have to be 13 to have an account. Didn’t stop me from creating profiles for both of my kids – ages 6 and 7 at the time- as a way to keep in touch with Grandma when we moved 1000 miles away. :)

            2. Mrs. Fenris*

              I have a dummy profile in my dog’s name. It doesn’t have a profile picture, any photos, or a single friend. I just made it so I could look up a couple of people I thought had blocked me.

            3. Espeon*

              Technically that’s true, but all you need to do is use a different email address to set up a second account. Lots of people I know who like their privacy do the same, often using a pseudonym instead of their real name for the second account in lieu of having a second language like me – I believe FB try to enforce using your real name too, so there’s another strike!

        2. Annie Moose*

          This is why I google my name on a regular basis (using DuckDuckGo so my past search history doesn’t influence results). Gotta make sure I know what’s accessible about me!

          1. attie*

            I just did (prompted by this post) and discovered that somehow everyone with my name seems to have or be getting a PhD (as am I). But the postmodernist English scholar is the best of us at publicity!

            1. Birch*

              Is there any research on this? I have also Googled myself and found that the first 3 pages of people with my exact full name are very similar to me in interests, skills, even appearance. SO weird! (Also postmodernist English sounds really interesting and good luck on finishing your PhD!)

        3. Dino*

          I have a unique name, too. Maybe that’s why I feel fine googling people? I am vigilant about locking down my privacy settings and Googling myself, so I just figured everyone else did so too.

      2. Foxy Hedgehog*

        This always worries me. I have a name that should be unique (rare last name, extremely rare first name) but isn’t. And the person who shares my name–and has a similar career track–has sued 2 different former employers, and had the lawsuits dismissed both times.

        When interviewing a few years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to mention this fact to hiring managers, warning them to be careful in case they google me.

        1. Not a Mere Device*

          I think there are three people with my name in the US. One of them got online well after I did, and I got an email Internet eons ago saying something like “we have the same name. A friend of mine tried to look me up and asked me when I’d been to X and done Y and Z, and I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. We exchanged a couple of emails and then dropped it. A few years after that, I sent her another note saying “hey, I also talk about these other things online. If they aren’t also true of you, be ready for the occasional oddly personal question or false assumption from people who googled the name, so you can say ‘no, that’s the Not A Mere Device who lives in $OtherState. We’re not even related.'”

          Fortunately for both of us, the third Not A Mere Device posts a lot of photos, which tend to swamp the first page or two of the search results if all you google is the name.

        2. DecorativeCacti*

          One of the first results under my name is an escort service…

          I can only hope employers realize I’m not affiliated.

          1. WS*

            I share a full name and a city with a reasonably famous porn star. Fortunately she puts her picture everywhere and we look nothing alike!

    2. Anon Prospect Researcher*

      I work in prospect research, I have on not rare occasion dug deeper than LinkedIn.

    3. tink*

      Sometimes you do a quick search thinking you’ll get a linked in and maybe a hit to their work site/portfolio/professional blog and end up finding things you definitely did not want to find…

    4. animaniactoo*

      I have too – keeping professional, but far deeper than linkedin on one occasion. But at that point, we were trying to solve the mystery of a co-worker whose portfolio and freelance work did not come close to matching what he was executing in our department (and by doesn’t come close to I mean I had to pick up the pieces with a client-partner and felt embarrassed to hell by what they’d seen and couldn’t explain how it was wrong without selling him completely down the river*). I think, generally, it just matters *why* you’re looking.

      *Not that I used those words, but it’s hard to feel that you’re doing anything else when you have to say “We usually have a different base model for this, if we change it to that, it should help with the difficulties you’re having.” “The base model here is not the correct one for this price point, so there will be some changes in the art application when I switch it to the other version” and “Technically, it’s not possible to execute this product this way. Would you be okay with (common way around technical difficulty)?” and that was 3 out of the 5 products he’d done designs for.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      We definitely googled a candidate we were considering interviewing, only to find one of the top hits was his Friendster profile… in which he was dressed as a baby, sucking his thumb and holding a “milk bottle” full of booze.

      1. Roscoe*

        See, I’m totally going to say that this is too far. No one has used friendster in probably 10+ years. So by even going to that, you had to have known that you were digging way too deep into this persons past. That just isn’t right to me.

        1. Autumnheart*

          A top hit on Google isn’t “digging” at all, that’s just it.

          PSA: Don’t use your real name in your DTF profile with risqué photos that easily identify you. And in fact it might not be a terrible idea to google yourself and see if any NSFW content of you comes up in the first few pages of results.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          PCBH specifically says it was “one of the top hits.” So how is that going too far?

          1. brighidg*

            Top hit doesn’t actually mean anything. It still doesn’t mean you should use something that is 10 years old against a potential hire.

      2. Specialk9*

        Friendster thoroughly outed a closeted gay coworker in a very conservative industry, with *details*. I’m not sure if they don’t have privacy settings because they’re so old, or if he didn’t know to use them. It was a big bummer.

    6. Tangerina*


      TBF, most of my coworkers friend each other on FACEBOOK (WHY!?? You really want your coworkers to see your bikini vacation pictures?!) I refrain from that for all but the rare person that I really connect with.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I kinda use Facebook the way I should use LinkedIn. I have a ton of coworkers on my FB, but I edit my content to basically be SFW. Probably not the worst policy I could have.

        1. Ophelia*

          Same. I’ve worked at the same place for 15ish years (as have many of my colleagues), and we live all over the globe, so it’s a way to maintain legit friendships. I’m also friends with my grandmothers and such, so all my FB content is work- and family-friendly.

          1. Tangerina*

            That’s fair. I have wildly different view points from most my coworkers (I’m very Anti-XXXXX and they are all pretty much Pro-XXXXX for starters) so I was coming from the viewpoint that my social media shows the “real” me that I wouldn’t want coworkers to see.

            But when you work at a place for a long time and make real friendships, it makes sense. 1 of my 2 closest friends was my boss at one point, and by the end of my longish run at that job, I may have possibly friended him on social media (if he weren’t a complete weirdo that eschews every single form of SM.)

            1. Specialk9*

              My rule is to only add the occasional work-friend who becomes a real friend, AFTER we stop working together.

    7. Random Thought*

      Thank you! Me too. I don’t go more than a page deep but I’ve definitely extended my sleuthing to Facebook.

  8. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Absolutely normal. I am also in an industry where people publish. When people are of a certain level of seniority, it is assumed they have been an author of a paper or presentation somewhere. I will not only look for a linkedin profile (which not everyone has), but I will look for association memberships and papers. This helps me know what else, outside of the current project, they might be a good resource for.

    Sometimes I accidentally find out they also fly model airplanes, or are part of a amateur baseball league, but that’s nothing more than a conversation starter for the next time I see them at the coffee break at a seminar or conference, if that.

    1. Librarians make the best stalkers...*

      In my profession (librarian), we look through various sites that have info on people as a matter of course. One of my former colleagues used to drive past coworker’s houses in the pre-google street view days.

      Of course, I could be influenced by my semi-toxic work environment. Normally we know way more about people based on their questions at the reference desk anyway, so googling a potential colleague is seen as normal. And we have mainly regretted it when we don’t…ask me about our pedophile director sometime.

  9. On The Spot*

    Not passing judgment one way or the other, but OP says, “while I occasionally googled coworkers, I only do so to find their LinkedIn profile.” Why would OP need to use google to find a LinkedIn profile when LinkedIn has a perfectly good search function? Something sounds a bit disingenuous.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      Yeah, I was wondering that as well. You can find people pretty easily through LinkedIn’s search function if you know their name and company.

    2. KTM*

      Eh – I do the same thing too. Partly out of laziness or habit – I just google everything because their search is so good. If I want to look up a candidate we’re interviewing for example, I usually google their name (or name + ‘LinkedIn’) and click the right link.

    3. Nonprofit pro*

      Because google is faster/ easier/ we google things 17 million times a day and that’s just the first thing we go to?

    4. BadWolf*

      Personally, I regularly find that in-site searches don’t work well and default to google searching for everything. If OP is like me, OP may never have bothered to search in LinkedIn.

      1. LCL*

        And if you are always using the same device, your autocomplete learns your searches without you having to do anything extra. I find this site by typing A, my favorite local subreddit by typing R, and autocomplete does the rest of the work.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I think it’s a pretty normal way to do it.

      For what it’s worth, lots of regular readers find this site by googling “ask a manager” when they know perfectly well where it is — some people just navigate the web that way.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Yep, because otherwise you have to guess at whether it’s a .com .org or whatever. And often get it wrong then Google to find out what it should have been! I’m *guessing* LinkedIn is a .net, but I don’t know, so to find the info quickly in a meeting I’d properly JFGI (just, ahem, Google it).

    6. CBE*

      Eh, you can google right from wherever you are in your web browser. Going to the LinkedIn site first is an extra step. I don’t think there’s anything sinister going on.

    7. Your Weird Uncle*

      I dunno, if I’m looking for someone specific (I often have to find contact or work info for my counterparts who work at other universities), I’ll just use Google. I might find a LinkedIn profile, but often Google will lead me somewhere else which has the information I need. Whatever works!

    8. Anon Prospect Researcher*

      If someone has a common name it’s much easer to search “John Smith Teapots Inc” than searching in LinkedIn and filtering the results. Is it a huge difference in time or effort? No. Do I still do it? Yes.

    9. LadyKelvin*

      It is much quicker to type [coworker’s name] linkedin into the address bar than to navigate to linkedin, find the search function, and type the coworker’s name. Using google as the default seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do to me.

      1. TootsNYC*


        command-tab to Chrome
        command-N for a new window (or command-L to get to the search bar)
        type in my search term and hit return

        (also, I use “google” to mean “search for,” and if I were using the LinkedIn search window, I might still say “I googled them”)

    10. Antilles*

      Based on the web traffic numbers, there are actually a lot of people who use Google all the time even if it doesn’t make sense. Like, there’s a surprisingly large percentage of people who will actually Google “my favorite baseball website” and click the link from Google rather than typing in the actual address *even if they already know the website address*. Equally common are the people who use Google to search through your website even though you have a search function just because they’re so used to using Google to search that they do it without even thinking about using the on-site search bar.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        I dunno about anyone else, but I definitely do that on my phone. My Chrome app has an address bar that’s a little annoying to use–dunno if it’s the app, my touchscreen, or my own clumsy fingers, but I can never get it to select and erase the current url completely, sometimes it doesn’t want to pull my keyboard up on the first tap, etc. Using Google search, however, is much smoother, and I keep autocomplete enabled so I just type in “ask” and Ask a Manager pops right up.

      2. MamaGanoush*

        Or like my employer’s website, where Google does a better job of finding things than the website’s search.

        1. Annie Moose*

          ^^ this. I’m very adept at getting Google to show me what I want, but most website search functions aren’t nearly as good at it.

        2. Anonymous Ampersand*

          I worked at my current job for two years before finding out that to do a search for an exact phrase on our website you need to use brackets instead of quote marks.

    11. Unacademic*

      Well, for one, it’s faster. Since the address bar on most browsers is also a search bar, you can just type in “name + company” and you’ll find it, instead of having to open up LinkedIn first, and then use the search function.

      I just use google to get to most pages I need anyway, since it also automatically corrects any typos.

    12. Tangerina*

      You only get so many searches with LinkedIn before you’re locked out of searches for the rest of the month.

  10. Cait*

    Does your company use Outlook or another email service that gives a profile for each person? That’s generally how I find that information. Or LinkedIn.

    It’s not weird to look up coworkers on LinkedIn, you can find out a lot about their experiences and shared interests or alma maters, etc.

    I did google a coworker once when she stopped showing up to work. She went out on vacation and never came back… she had a website made during that time and was regularly updating it, then there were results about a lawsuit she fired against her previous employer and the employer said she did the same thing she did at the current role – went out on vacation and never returned. It was pretty weird to read it all. Personally, I’d stick to LinkedIn.

    1. OP Googler*

      Op here – I mentioned this above as well but the employee directory and Outlook haven’t been combined yet since the merger.

  11. Canarian*

    It would be overstepping if you went pages and pages into their search results, read their old Livejournal from high school, and scrutinized their wedding registry or marathon scores or whatever other personal stuff a search might turn up.

    So should I not do this? Because I have definitely looked at literally all of these.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      Oh, I think looking at publicly available personal stuff is fine! I’ve done it! But you don’t *share* it. I think that is what is iffy – “Lookie here at Robb and Talisa’s wedding registry! They want TWO Instant Pots!” isn’t something you say around the water cooler at work.

    2. Let's Talk About Splett*

      I think there is this odd social construct where looking at that sort of thing is common, but it’s weird to make it known that you do.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        YES. I Google and read things about people I know all the time. I’m just pretty quiet about sharing that I have done so. I don’t think I’m that unusual.

      2. TootsNYC*

        it’s not that odd, actually–it’s directly analogous to eavesdropping (where it’s not OK to make it know that you’ve done it), which is as old as time.

    3. Gretchen*

      Me too! But also, I have my college students google themselves to see what others will find about them, and it inspires them to edit their social profiles, or be prepared to answer “Oh, no, I’m a DIFFERENT Draco Malfoy, I get asked that a lot” etc. I wouldn’t use the info against anyone, but humans are going to human – we are curious by nature!

    4. Murphy*

      This is the upside to changing my name after I got married! People won’t find that stuff!

    5. animaniactoo*

      lol, I just remembered the rather good-looking sales representative I dealt with from another company. I totally looked up all the info I could find about him and shared it with the other woman in my office who was crushing on him. I guess I have done it more than the professional times I remembered doing upthread.

    6. Lynn Whitehat*

      I wouldn’t. For one thing, you can find out waaaaaaaay more than you ever wanted to know about them, or than they wanted you to know. You could find out they’re polyamorous, or prone to 2000-word speech-to-text rants on their pet issue, or 180 degrees away from you politically, or just more than you ever wanted to know about Ned from Accounting. For another, if you’re not good at compartmentalizing information, you could end up blurting out what you learned and looking like a real creeper.

      I mean, *yes*, we’re all leaving little digital footprints that are technically public. But just because we have the physical ability to dig up colleagues’ slam poetry from 1997, doesn’t mean we should.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I have all my social media locked tight or under usernames that aren’t my real name, but I live in constant fear that someone will do some digging and somehow discover one random internet site from ten or fifteen years ago where my sexuality is listed*, and that’s something I don’t want people to know unless I tell them.

        *I have no idea if this is something that exists for me, but it’s something I do worry about because younger, teenage me was much more willing to put stuff on the internet about my questioning sexuality before I experienced any judgment and homophobia. So.

    7. many bells down*

      I’ve looked at some of the senior museum staff’s Instagrams, Twitters, etc. One of them has an IMDB page, even. I’m not actually ON Instagram or Twitter (or IMDB), so I don’t interact with them there. But my boss actually asked me the other week if I’d seen something “Bob the Curator” had tweeted, so I guess she wouldn’t have been shocked if I’d been following him there.

    8. CR*

      Me too. I’m nosy.

      One time I googled someone I worked with at an event and found out he had killed someone in a drunk driving crash and got away with 0 jail time (I found news articles about it) and I couldn’t look at him the same way after that, so…maybe I shouldn’t google anyone anymore.

      1. RainyDay*

        I found out a former boss was fired from a very public position (decades ago, long before we met) after accusations of sexual harassment. That was awkward.

    9. Arjay*

      I am fascinated by wedding registries. I almost always go look if I know people are getting married, even (especially?) if I’m not invited. But you know, people want people to shop and therefore look at their registries. They might reveal some eccentricities, but nothing that one would consider truly private.

    10. TootsNYC*

      I think it’s like eavesdropping. Or even accidentally overhearing.

      The rude thing is if you let it become obvious you have done it.

  12. Lisa*

    Despite what Alison said, I actually do pretty in-depth searches on coworkers. Not as much as I do bosses, though. I like to know the boss’s professional background. I could care less about their personal stuff like their facebook and such.

  13. Kat*

    People don’t google their coworkers? I mean I don’t do it at work and I don’t share that info with them, but I google everyone.

    1. Kate*

      Right? I mean, you don’t tell people you google everyone, but everyone does it, right? Seriously though, in the context that OP googled their colleague, I don’t think that’s weird at all. They asked a question. She found an answer. That’s what Google is there for.

    2. CTT*

      It honestly never would have occurred to me to google a coworker until reading this post today.

    3. MLB*

      I don’t. I also don’t participate in rumors or gossip at the office because unless someone becomes a legit friend, I really don’t care enough to “investigate”.

    4. Bridget*

      I’m sure some people do, but it would never occur to me to do so. And the thought of others Googling me makes me feel really uncomfortable even though I know there’s absolutely nothing online for me to worry about. It’s just intrusive and unnecessary.

    5. h.cowl*

      I know, I had to laugh at this post because I sleuthed out a coworker’s marathon time just this weekend (yes, to see if my PR is better, and yes, it was, because I am petty). Like, of COURSE I’m going to look at wedding websites and baby registries! I’m surprised so many people say that they do not do this!

      I admit to being an above-average internet sleuth.

  14. Let's Talk About Splett*

    Isn’t there a main internal company directory that tells you which office an employee is based out of?

    1. Silicon Valley Girl*

      +1 Not that googling & using LinkedIn is totally offbase, but I’d think a company large enough for international offices might have an intranet. Just in my experience working at various international companies.

    2. MLB*

      Yeah I found nothing wrong with what the LW did, but that wouldn’t be my first go to for information. I would look in our Outlook directory, and if that wasn’t helpful, I would email the person directly – “Hey we need to set up a meeting and was wondering your time zone so you can participate”.

  15. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

    I don’t mind it, but I wish people would tell me when they base their impressions upon a Google search of my (incredibly common combination of first and last) name.

    Then I could tell them I’m not a breeder of Portuguese water dogs, nor an incredibly-talented stained-glass artist, nor the frequent-flyer on the local police blotter, nor a trout activist (which I did not realize is a thing until I vanity-searched). I’ve gotten, and probably gotten screened out of, job interviews based upon accidental identity theft like this, and I kind of hate it.

    1. tink*

      I was definitely never a NCAA gymnast, and I’m not an ob/gyn or professional photographer, either.

    2. No, not that one*

      As someone with a name that has been co-opted by several, ah, adult entertainers… Yeah, I feel you.

    3. King Friday XIII*

      I am not a main character on a prime time drama, nor am I a children’s TV puppet, so I sometimes wonder if potential employers find anything useful when googling me. XD

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      And, although my parents are both now dead, I didn’t murder them and I’m not doing time in a federal prison.

      (Seriously. I have such a common name and THAT is what comes up first!)

      1. Reba*

        Sheesh. I myself did not murder my spouse in a somewhat salacious case that was in another country’s tabloids for a while!

        Luckily if you do Firstname Lastname Keyword you get to me pretty quickly. But I set up a personal standalone website in part because I wanted to try to get myself away from that story.

    5. Matilda the Hun*

      My first name, last name, and home state are the same as the main character of a best-selling series of mystery novels from the early 2000s. It is very difficult for potential employers to find me- normally they just get book reviews used book store links, even using Boolean to filter out the author and publisher names.

    6. Elizabeth*

      I’m not a professor of African American & Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, I’m not a para-legal in Los Angeles specializing in Elder Care Issues, and I’m not a teenager at one of 3 high schools in North Carolina or 2 in Kentucky. Those just the one who get their email address mixed up with mine! I’ve gotten credit card bills, legal paperwork for guardianship hearings and class trip announcements.

      I’m also not a dental patient in Connecticut who kept using my email address for her appointment reminders, which included what was scheduled to be done. That was actually more difficult to sort out. Since I do healthcare information security, I tried to help the practice on 3 separate occasions to get my email address disassociated with her records. The final time, when I found out about her upcoming root canal, I filed a complaint with the relevant federal agency, including copies of the emails. Amazingly enough, that got it addressed!

      1. Pleather*

        I once started getting phone calls about someone else’s insurance claims, and spent months trying to correct them. The problem was we both had Blue Cross. So I had to deal with “don’t call me for questions about Fergus Smith, I don’t know who that is and I shouldn’t be privy to his private information” but also “this is still the correct number and I do want to be called for questions related to MY insurance.” It was a headache.

      2. WS*

        Yeah, I got a slew of appointment reminders for a woman in Tennessee whose child was having a serious health issue with multiple hospital visits. At least the children’s hospital took it seriously when I let them know – the poor kid had 21 appointments over a month and I got sent them all at once.

    7. Canarian*

      I thought I was the only person with my name in the world until about four years ago when the other one aged into social media and start posting her “sexy” teenage mirror selfies all over the internet. I think the age difference is significant enough that no one would get us confused, but I do wonder anyone somehow ever did.

    8. Unacademic*

      I feel like most people have the sense to know that googling a common name will give you a lot of results for other people. I actually think it’s better than having an uncommon name – you’re a needle in the haystack! People are unlikely to associate whatever they find with you specifically, even if it is your information.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I have a fairly *uncommon* name, if you google my name, you get me and 2 others , plus one who was an actress and appeared in about 10 films in the 1930s.

        Neither of the other two people with my name seem to get up to anything scandalous, although I was once contacted by a VERY confused journalist who was looking for the eminent psychologist, not for me.

        About 20 years ago I started getting e-mails for someone with almost the same name (different spelling) – mostly about her work shifts. I did reply several times pointing out that I was on a different continent, and suggesting that they check her contact details, but they never seemed to do so.

        Later on I got a whole string of emails from various of her friends, congratulating me/her on passing her bar exams (I did respond to those to let them know they had the wrong details)

  16. GreyjoyGardens*

    I don’t see what’s wrong with searching someone’s LinkedIn profile. That is what it’s *for*! I wouldn’t have a LinkedIn profile if I didn’t want people to see it.

    With digging deeper, I don’t see anything wrong with looking at, say, someone’s old LiveJournal or blog posts or whatever, but those you probably shouldn’t share with coworkers. “Har har look at Fergus’ old high school LiveJournal! He wanted to marry Hermione Granger, hahaha what a doofus!” is not cool at the workplace. I think most of us were rather embarrassing in high school! But, if it’s in public (not locked down) I say it’s fair game for perusing, albeit not for group funsies. You can’t leave information lying around in public and not expect people to look at it. I have my Facebook set to “Friends Only” for this reason – I have nothing embarrassing or that I want to hide, unless I had a boss who would never hire a cat lover, but I just don’t want randoms looking at it. *So I lock it down.*

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is why I am eternally grateful that social media wasn’t a thing until well after my embarrassing high school/college years.

  17. Dz*

    I do this all the time because our internal directory sucks. It’s difficult to use and often out-of-date.

  18. all aboard the anon train*

    Seeing how many people here google their coworkers make me glad that very little comes up when you google me. There’s one person with my name in another state, but very little about me. Though, I have had people apparently not do a very good google search and assume I’m the person in West Coast State and judge me accordingly, which is not great.

    I find it creepy to do in-depth google searches of people tbh, and if someone ever admitted they did one of me I’d definitely think of them differently or keep my distance. Unpopular opinion, I know, but it just weirds me out.

    1. many bells down*

      I have a pretty common name, so google searches of me take a few pages to even bring back a result that is actually me. I figure if a search gets 12 different women in 12 different professions, no one is going to assume the first hit is me.

    2. AnonForThis*

      I’m a tad bit creeped out by the comments. I’m with you all the way. I see digging up dirt, no matter the use of it, as annoying and off-putting, at best.

      Perhaps a bit more extreme than what is generally being discussed here, but I unsuccessfully tried to get away from my family’s horrible reputation by working a mere county over from mine. Invariably, there were always one or two coworkers who would assign themselves as the chief investigator of my family life, because it was just so weird for them to not intimately know someone: “Oh, I see you went to High School X. Did you know B? Oh, then you must’ve been in Class X. Are you So and So’s sister? Didn’t she hit a police officer with a bat and go to jail? And that means your brother is Y – didn’t he rob a place and go to prison as a juvenile?” Yeah. That’s the faux-sweet, nosy-lady takedown approach, and they didn’t even have to use Facebook.

      Now I work in a large(r) city where no1currs, thankfully, and I blend in anonymously as the successful professional that I am (mind the imposter syndrome). My personal life has nothing to do with my coworkers and is absolutely none of their business. And, so, I don’t have social media. At. All. Google me all you want: there’s nothing but professional work. Since people can’t contain themselves, I contain myself.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, I feel like a “it’s public information!” comment is just a way for being to justify their own nosiness.

    3. Luna*

      Yeah I agree, I’ve sometimes looked up coworkers Linkedin profiles when I first started new jobs or when they are new to the company. But anything more than that seems weird and unnecessary.

  19. Not my usual name*

    I went down a search engine rabbit hole once to find out who my boss’s spouse was. We’d been working together for over a year and I had no idea they also worked at the university until my boss said something in an email, and I was too embarrassed to ask. (I did find out though!)

  20. deets*

    This reminded me that my Livejournal probably still exists… I can’t imagine it would come up in a search result, but maybe I’ll figure out how to delete it just in case!

    1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

      You have the option to just friendslock all your entries now. I personally find it interesting to review my old journals once in a while, online or physical; sometimes 20-years-ago me is very different, sometimes there has been zero change, but there’s a surprising amount of value there. It makes the cringey moments (and there are a LOT of cringey moments) very worth it.

      1. deets*

        Thanks for the heads up! There are definitely a lot cringey moments in mine, complete with my high school friend group fighting in the comments. I was a boring teenager so there’s probably not much that would be particularly damning, but it’s also not how I’d want to make an impression on a coworker.

  21. CAM*

    I work for a smallish company (~50 people in our main office). I know several people here who google everyone and I (a non-googler) don’t think any less of the people who google for doing so. Also, the Onion recently ran this article with the headline: ‘Nice To Meet You,’ Coworkers Tell New Employee They’ve Studied Online For Hours, so if the Onion is poking fun at the practice, I think it must be pretty common.

  22. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Please tell me I am not the only one who now *wants to* google my coworkers…

      1. H.C.*

        Ditto – relieved to find results are innocuous (LinkedIn, articles/blogposts I’ve authored, my pinterest boards)

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I just googled myself and found some creepy ass website that listed my full name and address, so I removed that…

        1. Kewlmom*

          How? How do you remove such things? I would love to see an AAM topic about how to clean up/lock down one’s online presence

  23. Kms1025*

    I’ve never understood why it should be taboo to google something that was put out there in the public domain?????

  24. KR*

    Hi OP. I work in a large organization with offices and employees all across the US. I also work with suppliers and other companies across the country. I frequently search people on LinkedIn or on Google to find their company profile. Completely normal. If I didn’t I wouldn’t know where half these people are located or anything about them past their email signature.

  25. Anne Noise*

    I am terrible at names and will regularly look people up on org charts with pictures, Facebook and LinkedIn in a desperate attempt to remember their names. I rarely dig further than that – pairing a face to a name.

    But who cares. Go ahead. My social media is weird and mostly private but not a heavily secure fortress.

  26. theletter*

    I think this is a ‘not what you did but how you said it’.

    finding the relevant information on linkedin, then saying ‘Bob’s linkedin profile says he’s based in Chicago, so that’s CST’ makes you useful and resourceful.

    Copying links in chat generally comes off as defensive, stating that you found the information on google also comes off as defensive and unfortunately, a little catty (like a ‘Let Me Google That for you’ link).

    In corporate offices, it’s nicer to pretend that people aren’t worth googling unless they position themselves as someone’s who’s published or discussed widely on the web. What if Bob in Chicago has a name twin who does controversial things? And Bob has been trying to figure out how to disassociate himself from his name twin’s activities, and just wants to known for his amazing accounting skills? Let’s not accidentally ruin Bob’s reputation with misinformation.

    Now if your team is about to hire Bob and you don’t have great background checks, then yeah, google away. Just handle the results with a grain of salt.

  27. Jubilance*

    Ok I must be the only one but I thought it was weird to Google the person instead of just using company chat or email to ask them what time zone they are in. Googling and finding their LinkedIn seems like more work than just quick opening a chat and asking “Hi, just wondering what time zone you’re in so we can set up a call, thanks!”

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I understood it as they were already on a large conference call and googled instead of messaging them so not to as disturb them during the call. Certainly if you were setting up a meeting beforehand a quick email about time zones is the way to go.

    2. MLB*

      You’re not the only one. I thought it was odd that google was her go to when nobody on the call knew the answer.

    3. bonkerballs*

      Well for one thing, google gave them the answer immediately. Email or chat, you gotta wait until I respond. And if I’m busy and get an email that just asks what time zone I’m in, that’s for sure not something I’m going to bother answering right away.

    4. Ms. Elizabeth*

      None of the companies I worked for have chat, even the ones that have multiple locations.

  28. Crystal*

    I have a coworker who deeps dive googles any new hire and often tells me some of the things he finds. On the one hand it’s public and out there, on the other hand it’s nothing I’d do because I frankly don’t care enough.

  29. bopper*

    I look up fellow employees through our “people finder” online internal search. I use google/linked in for customers/clients.

  30. AnonandAnon*

    I wish I had Googled my current coworker before he was hired (I was out when he was interviewed and hired). I am not talking about LinkedIn, but just a regular Google-search and boy did I get an eyeful. There is no way this guy would have been hired had my manager done the same. At this point (4 years later), there is not much we can do. He was never arrested, but he was pulled over for a road rage incident where he showed his gun (he has a carry license), and there are public records of hearings (he wanted to get into law enforcement, but no police force would hire him) and from there I determined what I already knew (he’s a terrible coworker, and he abuses his sick time). He also had a serious illness last year and was out for months, now he’s back but probably even worse than before. He can’t handle the job he has, and is constantly cursing and banging on his desk, or better yet, he mumbles as he putting down the phone after talking to a customer (who can still HEAR him). It takes forever and a day for someone to be let go here, and I’m hoping my manage is not lying when they say it’s “in the works.”

  31. ahch*

    I’m super confused by this. Aren’t we told to expect that interviewers will google us and may judge us based on what they find? How is this different? In this day in age, if its in the public domain, I think you have to assume everyone around you may have looked you up.

    1. Roscoe*

      I still think the “Its public so its fair game” is just a bit much. The amount of things you CAN find out publicly is huge, that doesn’t mean you should go around digging. Do you look up how much your co-worker paid for their house? What about if you found out someone was a government employee? Do you look up their salary?

      1. LookUpALLTheThings*

        Well, yes, I can say in my workplace I have seen both of those occur on more than one occasion. The ethics of it can be debated, but I think people often underestimate how much info is out there and how easy it is to find. It scares me to think folks are relying on the restraint of random folks, cause I am pretty sure they don’t have any.

      2. Autumnheart*

        I disagree. It’s public information. I’m entitled to look it up. This is like saying there are some books at the library that I “shouldn’t” read. I mean, 99% of the time I don’t care enough to look things up about people, but it has been well established that people do not have an expectation of privacy in the public domain. Using their public information to socially engineer your way into their private information is wrong, but it’s not wrong to look at public information. Not even in the slightest.

        There’s certainly an argument for instituting a “right to be forgotten” law so that people’s hijinks from 15 years ago don’t come back to haunt them, but there’s also an argument for having the right to know when someone is misbehaving in such a way that it can damage you somehow (e.g. employee posting racist comments on Twitter, or whatever). There’s an argument for limiting what search engine companies are allowed to collect and about limiting the reach of Big Data. All of that is a necessary conversation.

        But until then, “shouldn’t” doesn’t figure into it. Public is public.

        1. Espeon*

          Under the new GDPR rules here we have the right to be forgotten (unsure how much it extended to before – the GDPR training is fresh in my mind though). On a personal level I think it’s great.

        2. LaurenB*

          Even with the right to be forgotten, you have to at least ask for it! For all I know my co-workers are proud that they make a good salary and feel they got a great deal on their house that they’re happy for people to know about.

          And I agree 100% with the rest of it. If it’s public and you have the research skills to find it, it’s fair game. The ethics rest solely with those who make the information public.

      3. Canarian*

        Yes and yes. I look up property values for practically homeowner I know, including coworkers. I’m also a government employee, so I look at the salary of all of my coworkers, especially when evaluations and raise negotiations are around the corner.

        1. Espeon*

          I love snooping on house prices. Especially on my own street. Rise, property value, RISE! *rubs hands together*

      4. ahch*

        I think in this day in age, you’ve got to just assume people are going to look up what is available, and may come across information while not trying to be intentionally nosy. I love looking at real estate and would daily look at the new listings for my mid-sized city. One day my bosses house popped up for sale (I knew it was her house because I had been invited over). There had been rumors for months she was leaving for a job out of state. Her departure was announced about a month later. (Fun fact, I actually followed her and still work for her).

  32. SLR*

    I worked for a global company & we had an internal website on our intranet with global directories. I would have never thought to google or anything else knowing I had that website & could find anyone at any location of the company in the world. I guess I assumed other ‘global companies’ did the same kind of thing. Maybe that’s why they are looking askance?

  33. Jadelyn*

    I mean, the entire point of LinkedIn is to be a professional *social network*. I’ve used it to try to track down a job candidate whose email address on their resume was giving us a bounceback error. She was an extremely strong candidate so we really wanted to talk to her, so I found her on LI and sent a connection request, and in the note they let you attach explained we were trying to reach out re the job and if she could please call me or message me so we can get contact info. Nobody thought that was weird. So I don’t get why it would be weird to use LI to find a coworker’s contact info or something.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I think that is different than the OP’s situation. Yes, your example sounds perfectly legit and using LI for it’s intended purpose.

      The OP’s seems rather weird to me, like they were on a phone call with the person. How hard is it to say “Hey, what’s a good time to schedule a follow up?”

      1. Kathleen_A*

        It sounds so totally normal to me. Google is quicker, for one thing, and goodness, LinkedIn is for business connections, and what was this if it wasn’t a business connection?

        And BTW, I am, in technology terms, positively elderly. And it still sounds completely ordinary to me.

  34. WFH*

    One day I went looking for the LinkedIn profile of the guy I was replacing in my current job for the normal purposes of adding him as a connection. It wasn’t turning up in LinkedIn for some reason so I google’d it… and then discovered that about a decade ago he had been sentenced to several years of federal prison for some pretty serious identity theft & other fun types of fraud. It definitely was him, mug shots and all.

    The job didn’t have anything to do with financial information or sensitive data, but it was still quite the shock. He was otherwise a really good coworker.

  35. Anon today*

    This is the exact reason I don’t job search. Remember the whole false arrest, exoneration, police chief resignation I’ve told you all about? Well while the arrest made news for three days, the exoneration barely made news, and the media totally glossed over that his resignation was because of the whole botched/false investigation around me. Pages upon pages of unfavorable google articles, and the exoneration is like, page 7. I’ll be here forever. (But this place kept me when I was going through all that, so that’s a plus).

    1. Anon today*

      Ha! And my arrest record got sealed, but my goto catch phrase is now ”you can’t seal google!”

  36. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I find this all rather odd and horrifying! (ok the horrifying! is a little bit of an exaggeration but yeah odd).

    In this situation I don’t think I’d look them up on the internet at all. My go to would be their outlook profile, failing that I’d probably just IM them and say “Hi, Bob wanted to set up a follow up meeting and didn’t know where you worked out of so he could try and find a timezone friendly spot”

    I’m actually now quite fascinated by this… for those of you that do google your coworkers, is it just curiosity or something else? I can’t imagine caring about any of my coworkers enough to look them up in their private lives.

    I’m also wondering if this is one of things (unlike all of the silly things we ascribe to generations) that may be more prevalent in one generation vs. another.

    1. Roscoe*

      As someone who doesn’t do this (is is frankly appalled at how much people will admit to doing) I’ll tell you, they are nosy. That is it. They can reframe it in their mind in any way, but that is what it comes down to. There is no reason you need to know certain personal things about a co-worker, but “since its there and public” people feel ok with that.

      I feel like oddly people aren’t ok with looking at a personal document people accientally left on a printer. But looking up other random things they can justify.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I think we all know this, but there’s also somewhat of a social contract that means that people won’t be searching for non work information on every person they meet. Of course this could be a false assumption on my part as I’m learning here.

        Again, I’m not really even talking about the OP’s situation anymore. While I find that an odd way to accomplish the task they had, I guess it’s within the reasonable limits for me. Even googling a prospective employee.

        Now I’m mostly talking about people who just randomly google coworkers just to see what they can find out.

    2. AnonandAnon*

      Well, this may sound really odd, but I just had a “feeling” about this guy, and so I went to Google to see if my hunch was right….and it was. Not that this information helps in any way, as I would not show my manager at this point, but it would have been great to see when he was being interviewed. He also worked for very short periods of time at a variety of companies, which should have been a red flag. I know he was perp walked out of at least one job.

  37. Tony Stark*

    I’m a one man IT department, and I’ve Googled my predecessors. Mostly because I was looking at some of the decisions and purchases they made and was hoping a little more information about them would reveal why they chose to do or buy such terrible things.

  38. STG*

    Bonus to sharing a first/last name with a regionally well known athletic coach, his results pretty much push me to page 5.

  39. Kat*

    We learned the hard way it’s important to google potential coworkers – we missed two people with questionable criminal past behaviors, and it ended up being a huge problem when they worked for us. A little due diligence would have saved us a headache.

    Both ended up in jail – one for arson, and one for stealing intellectual property from his employer.

  40. LCL*

    For those of you who are interested, you can set up a google alert that will notify you of any specified search term that someone types into google. Some people use this to be alerted of technical news. You can also use this to be alerted if someone has typed your name into google. Just do a web search for google alert and follow the prompts, it’s easy. I have an alert on my name because I have a common one, and believe it is to my benefit to find out if ‘”I” have made the news. Also to find out if someone is planning to hurt me.

    1. Professor SICKamore*

      This is worded strangely, so I want to point out that Google Alerts work by sending you an email every time google’s crawlers find a new instance of your name in results – NOT if someone merely searches for your name. Also, it doesn’t work very well.

  41. Eye of the Hedgehog*

    Am I the only one who thinks it could come off as sort of smart-assy to point out that you googled something? Maybe that’s what they are bristling at? I feel like it almost always has a tone of “I googled it for you since you were to lazy/stupid to do it yourself.”

  42. Environmental Compliance*

    Just googled myself out of curiosity, and under my married name you find my LinkedIn, an academic portfolio, and some random articles about some of the state agency work I did. Under my maiden name, you find some random articles about the state agency work I did, and some of my undergraduate articles/theses. Under both you find a couple obituaries of family members.

    I am happy that I am so boring online with my unique name. FWIW – none of my social media handles are under my real name, and they’re all locked down, with the exception of my knitting shop, which is still not under my full name, and is fully public (because I want people to buy my stuff).

    I do link my knitting shop on my LinkedIn, and I actually had a person from a city agency that I work often with ask me about it very excitedly because do I do custom orders?

  43. LookUpALLTheThings*

    Perhaps it is my librarian side, but if it CAN be Googled it WILL be googled. A casual Google search to find out: the company someone works at, email, education, time zone, job title are pretty standard. It is not limited to Linked In. I would say for some nosier co-workers think nothing of a deep google dive on co-workers.

  44. Stephern*

    Ugh, I just googled myself and I found several whitepages-type listings that had my name, relatives, old (and even current!) addresses. I feel so creeped out by that. I didn’t even have to do deep digging to find that information.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      Yeah. I found out about this the hard way when I kept getting hounded by debt collectors for a distant cousin because I was apparently linked to her profiles on all these sites as a relative. They couldn’t get in touch with her, so hounded anyone listed as a relative on those sites. I had never even met her. It was miserable.

  45. Daphne B*

    I Google coworkers CONSTANTLY. I work for a health system with over 10,000 employees in a position where I am often reaching out to connect with folks I’ve never met. I want to make sure I know their name, position, credentials (aka, do I address them as Dr. or no?) before I reach out because I don’t want to look like an idiot.

  46. Autumnheart*

    Sometimes Google spills its guts without you even trying. A while back I typed an old boyfriend’s name, and autocomplete came up with “Firstname Lastname DUI arrest”. I didn’t even have to hit Enter. (And this guy is a Fine Upstanding Citizen and not exactly arrest bait.)

  47. Goya de la Mancha*

    “It would be overstepping if you went pages and pages into their search results, read their old Livejournal from high school, and scrutinized their wedding registry or marathon scores or whatever other personal stuff a search might turn up.”

    Someone needs to have this conversation with my co-worker who enjoys spending her free time looking people on on the State court records.

  48. Anita-ita*

    I am the ultimate stalker and have no shame. I am always curious about people! I google them, find their LinkedIn, stalk their FB and try to find them on IG. I’ve actually been dubbed a “master stalker” because I can find people who don’t want to be found. Friends come to me when they can’t find someone online.

    I suppose it’s more of a game now, to see how I can find someone with little information. A friend came to me once saying he had a crush on this woman and he can’t find her online. She was a gynecologist and I had her first and last name but she wasn’t active online under that name. After about 10 minutes of digging I found a nonprofit that her doctor bio said she was interested in, stalked the nonprofit’s IG, and found her under an alias through their list of followers.

    Anyways, have no shame! Linkedin stalking is harmless.

    1. Professor SICKamore*

      100% agree! I am so confused by everyone’s reaction to this question. If you’re that worried about it, there are lots of simple-to-follow guides to controlling your internet presence. Having great google-fu abilities is a skill a lot of companies would pay a lot for.

      1. Anita-ita*

        Glad someone agrees! some of the comments below make me laugh. It’s the age of being online.

    2. Not a Mere Device*

      “I helped a friend track down the personal email address of a woman he had a crush on” is exactly what’s wrong with Internet stalking.

      1. Canarian*

        I doubt this will assuage your concerns, but they didn’t say they found her personal e-mail address, just her online presence. They were scrolling through her instagram pictures, not sending her unprompted e-mails.

        1. Anita-ita*

          Yes, that is correct. No one was harmed or even messaged. It was all just to take a look at some photos, which were posted for the public to see.

      1. Manager Mary*

        If you think it’s creepy that strangers on the internet can see your public instagram photos, then you don’t understand how instagram works and you shouldn’t use it.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Yeah, what you described passed the creeper line. Exactly how did either of you see this crush playing out…

      Unsuspecting woman: Oh how did we meet, it was great, Wakeen had a crush on me but didn’t have too much information to go on, so he contacted his good friend Anita-ita who is the self proclaimed master stalker, and she found me and gave all of my professional information to him. Well he kept turning up at my place of business, oh he was easy to spot as I’m a gynecologist and we don’t usually get too many men setting up appointments, well he eventually wore me down.. umm convinced me that I should go on a date with him. We’ve been together ever since, well that is until the restraining order goes through.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      People like you are the reason why I don’t have social media accounts that force me to use my own name to register and make all my accounts private.

      I’m against googling people, but there’s a big difference between googling and stalking. Stalking is never okay. It’s creepy and wrong, and can lead to horrible situations.

  49. Professor SICKamore*

    I’m shocked – SHOCKED – at everyone’s answer to this question!

    Of course it’s ok to google your coworkers! Probably don’t do it at work, but the internet is public and there for anyone to peruse for whatever reason.

    Furthermore, if you’re in a creative field, it’s expected that you and your coworkers are googling each other to see everyone’s past work. I work with artists and writers and we all *love* being asked about our work. It’s excessively normal.

  50. Pam*

    My question is why you would google someone rather than going to LinkedIn and doing a search there, if what you wanted was their LinkedIn profile?

    That way, your results are likely to be limited to what the person wants to have known.

    1. A Nickname for AAM*

      Because they forgot their LinkedIn password and don’t remember if you can search public profiles without logging in?

  51. kc89*

    I once googled a co-worker and looked at his wedding registry, the next day the wedding registry was made private and I’m still paranoid it was because of me lol

  52. Rey*

    I changed my name after I got married and none of my immediate coworkers said anything about it. However, someone in a sister office called a couple weeks later and said, “I saw on Facebook that you got married so that explains the name change!” I was so flabbergasted! We weren’t Facebook friends, so he essentially admitted to looking me up on Facebook. All of my privacy settings are high, so he would have only seem the most basic info and most recent profile picture (which was a wedding photo). It also seemed a little creepy since he is my dad’s age and I’m an entry-level female secretary.

    In contrast, my boss got divorced and went back to using her maiden name. For the first twelve months, there were so many awkward phone calls and meetings where people started with asking why her name changed. One person offered “Congratulations!” because they assumed that she had gotten married, not divorced. That taught me that I should never ask what happened, because there was never a single business-related reason to ask about the name change.

    1. Autumnheart*

      Yes, that’s how Facebook works. People look you up and see your publicly available information.

      I’m honestly a little boggled at all the people who are surprised that social media works as intended. I’m also an old and I’ve been on the Internet since the days when it was an *axiom* that you shouldn’t post anything online that you didn’t want people to see.

      Posting on social media is literally like taking an ad out in the paper times a million. You are literally handing over your content to a company to use as it sees fit. It’s in the privacy policy. That’s what you are literally signing up for. They actually mean it. People really will see it even if they are not acquainted with you. They may even seek that information out. Facebook and other social media sites exist specifically for the purpose of collating information about you and creating an online identity for you!

      I don’t expect everyone to be an expert on the network effect of sharing information online, but it seems naive in the extreme to share information on a social media site and then feel “creeped out” when that information becomes searchable and people search for it. This is what these companies DO.

      1. Rey*

        I know that this is how Facebook works, but I was surprised that a vague coworker brought it up in conversation. Just because you have access to information doesn’t mean that you need to use it for anything.

        1. Professor SICKamore*

          Bringing it up in conversation has nothing to do with looking the information up in the first place. Decent people understand that you shouldn’t divulge every detail you find out about someone online.

  53. Granny K*

    I think everyone should google themselves every once in a while. It’s important to know what’s out there about you.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Of course they should. But that has nothing to do with your coworkers internet stalking you.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Not really since a lot of the information that is out there a person has no control over. Yes, I understand that house price information, property tax information, police records, court document, foreclosure records and the like have always been public. It’s only pretty recently where it’s become available at the the push of a button.

          I can have no intentional (FB, IG, LI, etc) internet presence, but all of the above still there and I have no control over it.

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Sorry… posted too soon.

          Would you walk around with your house value, address, and tax bill pinned to your shirt? How about a list of your speeding tickets? The information about that time you were going through some financial difficulties, got behind on your bills, and then had a judgement levied against you?

          Surely you wouldn’t mind if all of your coworkers had that knowledge about you?

          1. Manager Mary*

            I’ve never worked anywhere where everyone’s criminal history wasn’t completely public knowledge. Everywhere crappy restaurant jobs to fancy office jobs. I don’t mean “public” like we were sitting around talking about Fergus’s divorce or Jane’s DUI at the staff meeting, but we were definitely sitting around the break room talking about it. Court records are online and we definitely all peeked and each other’s. Not saying it was kind or professional, but it is definitely done, everywhere, all the time.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              There’s a difference between me taking about the political party I belong to, though, and a coworker deciding that they want to search it on my state’s registry out of curiosity. I have no control over that info being public, and even less control that it not only lists how I enroll, but my complete address as well. I’m not okay with that, and I’d be less okay with something thinking they were entitled to find out that info just because it was “public”.

  54. Manager Mary*

    I’m completely floored that anyone thinks it’s weird to Google coworkers. It’s 2018, people! It would be ludicrous to not Google someone before you hired them or dated them, and there is nothing about being a hiring manager or a single person that gives you magical Googling privileges. Google isn’t some top-secret government database; it’s the phone book + encyclopedia + a bunch of diaries that put online, voluntarily, on purpose. 20 years ago no one would have said “you looked up his phone number IN THE PHONE BOOK?!” if you were trying to get a hold of someone. If you didn’t want your number in the phone book, you left it unlisted. If you don’t want people finding you on the internet, don’t have a YouTube channel/blog/website with your name on it.

    If you have an incriminating LiveJournal floating around, don’t just not google your coworkers and hope they’ll give you the same privacy. Just go lock down your old LJ! I hope you all are Googling your own selves regularly, because your weird hesitation to Google your coworkers is not a shared sentiment. Be aware of what the internet has to say about you because 100 random AAM readers and my grandmother are the only people who haven’t typed your name into the search bar of not only Google and LinkedIn but also Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, your state’s court system, and a half-dozen other places.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      You seem to be stuck on the intentional internet presence, as I noted above what about all of the info that you can’t control.

      Let’s be honest, there is no good reason for a coworker to google another coworker. Yes a manager in the hiring process, maybe a perspective date. But the only reason for a coworker to google another coworker to look at their ‘private’ (as in the the opposite of professional life – not in the nobody can see this way) life is plain nosiness.

      Seriously, if someone gets their jollies off searching out the non professional life of their coworkers I would really have to question what else they think is OK.

      I mean where’s the line? Am I creepy if I drive by a coworkers house to check out their front garden or to see who came to their big BBQ last weekend? How about showing up to their church on Sunday to see where they usually sit? If I follow them around the grocery store seeing what kind of products they buy, is that OK?

      In my mind there’s no difference between googling/internet presences searching and doing those same things in person.

      1. Professor SICKamore*

        In 2018, there’s almost no such thing as “information you can’t control.”

        You’ve either provided it yourself somewhere along the way, or it’s something like whitepages, which you can control with a little effort. If it’s something someone else has written about you, then it’s out of your control because it’s not your information. You can still use SEO tactics to bump it down the google results.

        Everything on the internet is public, and freely available to anyone for any reason. There’s nothing you can do about that. There’s nothing wrong with using it to find information about someone you work with. Furthermore, city streets are public and if someone wants to look at your house from them, that’s ok, too. However, it’s easier to just look at your house from google maps.

        1. Not a Mere Device*

          Sometimes “provided it yourself somewhere along the way” is “happened to be otherwise occupied one of the times Facebook changed their privacy settings,” or “gave a friend your LiveJournal handle, and mentioned that you don’t put your real name anywhere on it, without thinking you needed to tell him explicitly not to link the two on his google-indexed website.” That happened to a friend of mine, who discovered it the hard way when a crank with a grudge started commenting on her LJ.

          There’s very little we can do to prevent that, not if we want to be findable by more than a few people who we explicitly give our handles to. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cool to look for information about people, and spread it around. Most discussions of ethics are about things that are or might be possible, not “what should I sing while ritually dismembering the ambassador from Alpha Centauri?” or the appropriate use of telekinesis on the factory floor.

      2. Manager Mary*

        The line between “online” and “real life” is pretty obvious. It’s when you cross from “online” to “real life.” There are rare exceptions; online bullying = bullying. I can’t think of much else off the top of my head that translates. Googling how to smoke crack doesn’t make you a crack addict. Googling a sex move doesn’t mean you cheated on your significant other. And googling your coworkers doesn’t make you a stalker. If there’s no difference in your mind between online stalking and actual, IRL, physical stalking, then you are not a reasonable person and there isn’t any point in me attempting to reason with you.

      3. Professor SICKamore*

        Since you seemed to be the most concerned about this topic, I’ll direct you to Crash Override Network:

        http:// www. crashoverridenetwork. com/index. html (without the spaces, since i can’t remember if this platform allows links)

        From their website:


  55. LQ*

    This post reminded me I wanted to google a coworker to find out something about her. I assumed, correctly, that it would be on LinkedIn. It was. I have learned a thing.

  56. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I’ll sum up my feelings pretty bluntly, if it’s not ok to do something in person it’s not ok to do it online.

    I propose an experiment, for all the coworker googlers here, go ask a coworker how much their house is worth and what they pay each year in property taxes. Also ask them if they have any judgement against them or have ever been in foreclosure.

    Please report back with the results and their reactions.

    1. Professor SICKamore*

      I literally just had this conversation with my coworkers! We live in a rising cost-of-living town, and we were debating how “worth it” it is to buy a house right now. The conversation got around to property taxes, and I decided that no, it’s not worth it.

    2. Manager Mary*

      Only if you go ask your coworkers if they’ve ever googled someone and report back.

    3. LQ*

      I don’t know when property tax time is, but I know it is when my coworkers all bring it up and start talking about it, if I paid enough attention or asked I’m entirely sure they’d give the amounts. And about 3/4 of my coworkers who know I’m moving this year into a new apartment have asked me about the cost of the old one and the new one.

      And for property taxes thing, I have to say I find that especially strange that you’d be upset about something googling it. I mean I wouldn’t go googling it for a random coworker for no reason, mostly because I have other more interesting random things to google, like octupi, but it seems like if I wanted to buy a house I’d be talking about it and asking about it. I could entirely imagine a situation in which I googled a bunch of coworkers at my level of pay to find out about what their houses were and what their property taxes were. I could also imagine asking them directly and I would guess most of them would tell me quite matter of factly.

      Also…the internet is sort of the place to do things you might be uncomfortable doing online. Like asking for mental health resources, finding groups of professionals you can present questions to and get support without having them know everything about you, and asking a question about googling your coworkers to find out if you’re the weirdo here. That’s definitely a thing the internet is for.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Don’t you see how a conversation with someone about their property taxes is totally different than you sleuthing out the information?

        A person in a conversation has the option to share or not share with you, when you randomly google Bob from accounting’s information Bob doesn’t have that option.

        Of course the internet is where people go to ask questions and find information they might not feel comfortable sharing IRL, which is the whole point of the creeper factor of Jane in Marketing randomly googling you for no reason other than to be nosy about you.

        1. Autumnheart*

          For chrissake. What do you think people did with public records before the Internet existed? What do you think City Hall is for?

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            Uh, I would’ve thought someone who took the time to go to City Hall to find info on people to be a mega creeper.

    4. Roscoe*

      I agree. This whole idea that just because something is available that we should all seek it out is absurd. Tell someone at lunch that you went down and pulled their property records and criminal records and see how people react.

      1. AnonForThis(BecauseIWasAnonForAnother)*

        That to me is the standard. If I can’t tell a coworker to their face that I did something, then it’s not 100% right to be doing it. We can debate shades of “well, what do you think City Hall is for?” all day and night. I am comfortable telling a coworker, “Hey, SoandSo liked your photo on Facebook and you popped up in my Facebook feed [that I don’t have but let’s pretend] the other day – cute dog!” I am not comfortable telling my coworker, “Yeah, I was super bored on Sunday, so I looked you up on the State Court database and the Assessor’s database. I love your house – can’t believe it’s only worth $80,000! I see you bought it from Dude. I used to know his brother! Also, how did the lawsuit you filed against GeneralContractor work out for you? I’m interested in getting some work done on my house. Oh, hey, by the way – I looked up that single-vehicle accident you had in 2010 through BuyCrash. OMG! Is that where your DUI came from? I had no idea you had a DUI! Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

        I’d be in my boss’s office so damned fast, and the next stop would be a meeting with HR. Guaran-fricking-teed. If I still had a job, I’d appropriately be a social pariah.

        I used to work in law. I know all the ins and outs of finding people through public information. I have done the “mined professional info and stalked someone until I found their personal social media operated under an pseudonym” thing. And I used it at depositions. I saw an unnamed, unidentified person in a blog photo shoot who looked like me and it took me 30 minutes to find their real name and Facebook. I never fool myself into thinking it’s ethical, right, or something I’m entitled to. It’s dirty. And I got paid to do it.

  57. Allison*

    I wouldn’t mind if someone looked up my LinkedIn before working with me, or even if they’ve been working with me for a while to remind themselves what I look like, to see how long I’ve been doing what I’m doing, etc. They can even reference most of the stuff in conversation, it’s fine, it’s what it’s for! But if anyone ever looks up my social media, find something public, and then mentions it or asks about it just to make conversation, that would strike me as odd. Yes, it’s public, yes anyone can see it, but admitting you looked back at old tweets, posts, and photos is odd in just about any context.

  58. Argh!*

    You could go to LinkedIn directly if that’s all you really care about. That way you don’t accidentally see something you don’t want to know, and if you have touchy coworkers, it would seem less stalkerish.

    But really…. google? That’s like looking someone up in the phone book!

  59. Time Bomb of Petulance*

    My question is… why not just pull up LinkedIn and search there as a first option, and *then* go to Google if nothing comes up?

    1. bonkerballs*

      If you read through the comments, multiple people (including Alison) have addressed that this is a super common thing

      1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

        You’re right. I should have read through all the comments before posting as my question has been asked more than once. :) I guess it’s just weird to me because I never Google current coworkers, just prior ones to see what they’re up to now.

    2. Someone else*

      The consensus seems to be because doing that is two steps and googling it is one.

      1. Time Bomb of Petulance*

        Thank you. I guess I can understand that, but it sill seems weird to me. Next time, I will read through the comments before commenting as my question was asked more than once above.

  60. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    A few months after I started working at my last job, I found out that a coworker was tasked with Googling me just after my interview. My social media (except LinkedIn) is on lock-down, but she could see my profile picture. At the time, this was a photo of me wearing a giant carrot suit, reclining on a chaise longue. Said photo was immediately passed around the team via email. I got the job. Apparently they knew as soon as they saw the photo that I would be a good fit for the team.

    1. KayEss*

      I worked at a place where they did this and it went the opposite way–the guy whose MySpace photo was a heavily photoshopped art piece of himself as an orange-skinned demon with bat wings against a background of flames did not get an interview, but quite a few copies of the photo were printed out and put up around the office.

      On the other hand, the coworker in charge of Googling didn’t have enough other work to do and didn’t know when to stop. She looked up an applicant, found out the applicant was in a band, looked up the band’s music to play for the office, noticed that the band had an upcoming live appearance at a local venue, and seriously considered attending. She ultimately decided not to, out of fear that she would later be recognized if the boss chose to interview the applicant.

      (Both of those people honestly dodged a bullet by not being hired at that place.)

  61. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Welp, I don’t remember most of my coworker’s last names, but I just googled one guy I did remember.

    He was the driver in a car crash when he was 22, and his passenger died.

    I shouldn’t know that unless he chose to share it.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        That someone died in a car crash is just news. That my coworker killed someone in an accident? That’s intensely personal.

        I will take back the “unless he chose to share it”. If I happened across the info coincidentally, no big deal. But I know it because I wanted to entertain myself. Its not right to peer into one of the worst days of my coworker’s life for my own curiosity.

        Now, when the rumor went around that a different coworker was missing because he was arrested for a felony, I googled that guiltlessly. Better to know the truth about something like that, not to mention knowing whether he was showing up again. or if I was stuck doing all his work.

  62. Cassie the First*

    I’ve googled coworkers – I’ll look at their FB profiles (a lot of FB profiles are locked down these days so you have to be a friend to see the content) and LinkedIn profiles. I’m not hacking into people’s computers or cyber-stalking them. If I can find info without breaking the law, why can’t I look for it?

    It is a little squicky to know that property records are public and you can see how much someone paid for a house and how much property tax they pay. Should people be able to do it? I don’t know, but I assume it’s part of the public’s right to know? People can go to the county assessor office to find info there – it might cost some money but as far as I know, they don’t have to give a reason for asking for the information.

    That said, I generally don’t go around telling people what I found by googling coworkers. If everyone wants to google their coworkers and keep whatever info they find to themselves, go right on ahead. I assume my coworkers can and probably have googled me. I found out that a friend bought a house just down the street from where another friend of mine lived. When I saw it, it was just a “huh, interesting” moment – I didn’t go tell my friends (who don’t know each other) that they live near another friend of mine because that would just be weird.

    1. Angelika*

      “If I can find info without breaking the law, why can’t I look for it?” Well, you can, of course. The real questions are why would you? And should you?

      Why do you feel the need to do this? What benefit do you get from this? How does this help you be a stronger employee or a better person? Is there nothing more meaningful, productive, helpful or kind you could be doing with your time?

      You can do it. Sure! Go ahead. No one can stop you. But by doing it, you are saying something about who you are as as person. And that’s a nosy, intrusive, gossipy kind of person. Is this who you want to be?

      “I assume my coworkers can and probably have googled me.” Most probably haven’t. It’s just not that interesting.

      1. Cassie the First*

        I don’t feel it makes me a stronger employee or a better person, but I don’t think it necessarily makes me a worse person or a weaker employee. If anything, I think that the ability to use online resources to find information would be a plus (as the OP did).

        It’s fine if you want to judge me and others for this – it’s your freedom to do so.

  63. Software Engineer*

    If you’re just googling them to find their linked in… you can also just search linked in. It has a search function.

  64. Tobias Funke*

    Well, until this day I never really thought people would be that into the suicidal poetry I wrote and of course posted from ages 13 to 15. The more you know!

  65. BigSigh*

    Makes perfect sense in this context!

    Here’s an example of when it ISN’T ok. A coworker in my same office mentioned he googles everyone when they start. He then started talking about a personal, private blog of mine with topics including sexual experiences and family difficulties. All topics I’m perfectly happy to share and discuss with the world at large, but not with coworkers. This blog is in no way connected to my name.

    I appreciated learning how he made the connection (a very specific sequence of search terms and then reverse searching on an image that I didn’t realize was also a cross posted image on my blog). All the same, I felt very violated. It’s one thing if you happen to read something and realize it’s a coworker; it’s an entirely different matter when they act like a PI to find personal information and then BRING IT UP AT WORK.

  66. GreenDoor*

    Looking up someone on a professional site is perfectly acceptable.

    But when a former coworker of mine started making comments about the incredible number of speeding tickets I have and how he knows the courts will lower the penalty range if you pay a fine so I must’ve been actually going even faster than what he saw, I was like “Huh??” because I had never gotten a speeding ticket in my life.

    Turns out he looked me up on our county’s court record system which is public. Only problem is, he found GreenDoor A. Smith when I am actually GreenDoor *R.* Smith. That was a totally different GreenDoor’s record he was reading. So there is danger in misintrepreting what you might find about people online, especially if you use that misinformation at work.

  67. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I had a comment in here (re the lady who had her pic on Facebook in a “body paint” situation – was upset that it went through the office) — yeah Google is forever. When I said “before you play on your smart phone, play it smart.”
    I was criticized for that, but whatever…

    But think of it this way – your management likely is Google-ing you – they certainly DO vet you on social media if you send a job application in; in fact, if you said on Facebook “I got wrecked the last three weekends. Whoo-hoo!”, then don’t be surprised if you never get a call back from a place you just applied to.

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