Naked in Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information Online

Paul Sturges (Loughborough University)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Sturges, P. (2000), "Naked in Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information Online", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 137-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book produces a strangely ambiguous feeling in the reader. The industry and expertise it displays are admirable. For chapter after chapter it lists and assesses the sources which will enable the network user to build up great volumes of information on an individual. For instance it is perfect for someone trying to trace a person with whom contact has been lost, or to build a profile of a potential business associate. It is arguably the only essential manual for the work of today’s private investigator. At the same time, the content produces a shudder: it is wonderful material for a potential fraudster or stalker. As the title suggests, individuals are Naked in Cyberspace, exposed to the prurient and malicious eyes of others. But beyond acknowledging that this is frightening the author passes over all the ethical dimensions of her content with virtually no comment. No doubt Ms Lane would say that this is not her concern, and that she is a neutral conveyor of valuable listings and commentary on legally available information. She is certainly that.

Some 36 chapters covering 358 pages move from locating people, through collecting information for a host of purposes such as screening potential tenants to identifying experts. They cover different types of personal record, biographies, mailing lists, photographic images, financial records, criminal justice records, public documents, genealogical information and many other categories. There are also over 100 pages of appendices listing publications, organisations, databases, vendors of information and other useful categories of source. One cannot help but be impressed. Of course the question that springs to mind immediately when one begins to examine such a book is how one would cope with the fact that electronic sources come and go, changing their addresses with predictable frequency. The way to look at this is to take the book as a manual of technique and a generic source of information on categories of resource. One then relies on electronic searching for the precise current location of information. This is why it is important that the publisher’s Website (at www.onlineinc. com/pempress/naked) contains updated listings of resources. So, with the book in hand and a networked computer on the desk, only those whose lives are mercifully obscure, or who live in the many parts of the world where records are still predominantly kept on paper, are exempt from electronic scrutiny. Naked in Cyberspace is yet another panel in the plateglass wall of the surveillance society.

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