Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Google and identity, 3

I’ve written a couple times on Google and identity. It came up in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, and made me realize that I now assume (quite wrongly, I know) that if someone exists– by which I mean they’re people with whom I might have some professional or scholarly interaction– they’re visible to Google.

Today, a friend of mine sent me an article (apparently from an Australian newspaper; I don’t have the URL) that really made my head explode:

Fed: Kidnappers “Googled” journalist before releasing him

Iraqi militants who kidnapped and threatened to kill an Australian journalist “Googled” his name on the internet to check his work before releasing him unharmed.

John Martinkus, a veteran freelancer who has covered conflicts from East Timor to Iraq, was released yesterday, a day after he was taken hostage by four Sunni militants and ex-Iraqi army officers….

SBS executive producer Mike Carey today said the journalist’s captors had investigated his background online and saw he was harmless.

“They Googled him, they checked him out on a popular search engine and got onto his own website or his publisher’s website and saw he was a writer and journalist,” Mr Carey told AAP.

“They had thought he was working for the Americans as an informer.” In this case, modern technology probably saved his life, he said.

“It certainly did help,” Mr Carey said.

“I can’t say very much but … of course they said they were going to kill me,” Mr Martinkus told ABC’s Lateline program yesterday. “I was able to basically establish that I was an independent journalist reporting what was going on and that I had no links to the coalition.”

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