What is a username?
If you’ve logged into email or connected with a service online that requires registration, you’ve used a username. Basically a username is simply a way to identify you with your pertinent profile information (name, email) online. Many sites use usernames and passwords to create a more personalized experience for their users.
Utilizing username information as a search tool can yield a surprising amount of data about someone. Why? Simply because many people use the same or similar usernames across all of the sites they use. Therefore, using this username in a simple search query can unearth data not otherwise found in a simple search engine query.
What kind of information can I find with a username search?
Depending on how many sites the person has utilized their username at, it’s possible to find content, comments, watched videos, wish lists, purchases, friends, family, images, and much, much more.
What can you do with this information? Just like any other search process, most searches take time and effort,and searchers can use bits of information to find more information. For example, if you uncover an image on one site, you could use a reverse image search service, such as Tineye, to track down other instances of that same image. Many times people use the same profile image across all the different social network services and other online sites that they sign up for, and you can unearth quite a bit of data this way.
Note: the information contained in this article is meant for entertainment and educational purposes only, and should not be used inappropriately.
Start with a search engine
If you know someone’s username, and want to find what information might be connected to it, simply type it into your favorite search engine, whichever search engine that might be. Google is the world’s most popular search engine for a reason: it can turn up amazing amounts of information and is a great source of information.
Extend that search to other search engines for even more results. Different search engines yield different results – sometimes with quite drastic differences. Pick a few search engines to type your username into and see what comes up; a few good places to start would be Bing, DuckDuckGo, and USA.gov.
Search social networks
Many people who use services online use the same usernames from site to site. This applies especially to social networks, where it can take a lot of time and effort to create and maintain a profile.
If you know someone’s username, plug it into a few social networks – for example, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can potentially find lists of friends, images, interests, and other interesting information.
Blogs and usernames
Blogging is still one of the most popular activities online, with some of the more popular sites being Blogger, Tumblr, and LiveJournal. If you have someone’s username, go to these sites’ search functions, enter it in, and see what you come up with. Note: if you find that the search function is not easy to find on these sites or isn’t yielding any good information, you can use Google to search within the site as a whole using this command: site: “username”.
Search for usernames on specific sites
For example, on Spotify, you can type the following code into the Spotify search bar – spotify:user:[username] (replacing [username] with their Spotify username), and you should be able to locate their account and what they’re currently listening to, if they’ve made their streams public.
On Reddit, you are given a multitude of different ways to track someone down on the advanced search page. Want to look at someone’s comments? Try Reddit Comment Search. If you know someone’s username on Reddit, and they are active, this is a good way to find information.
How about eBay or Amazon? You can find someone on eBay using their username or email address, which uncovers their bid history, ratings, and anything they might have left for another seller. On Amazon, you can use someone’s username to find their wish list and jump off that to find what they’ve purchased recently (note:you’ll only be able to see what items they’ve left reviews for, not their entire purchasing history).
How to protect yourself from a username search
If you’ve got a username, and you’ve used it across more than one site, then you’re holding the key to a lot of potential data. Don’t let that data get in the wrong hands. Read the following privacy practices to understand how to be more secure online:
What is Doxing and How Can I Prevent It? If you’re concerned about how much information other people can uncover about you online, learn more about doxing and how you can protect yourself.
Is Google Stalking Me? If you’re concerned about how much information Google has about you, you’ll want to read this article on how to guard your data more effectively.
Eight Ways to Hide Your Online Identity: More people than ever before in history are going online, and with that, there are increasingly more security concerns. It’s smart and makes sense to take time to learn more cautious Web browsing habits.
How Confident Are You That You Are Safe Online? Find out what you can do personally to make sure that your online privacy is never compromised.
Ten Ways to Protect Your Web Privacy: Here are a few common sense tips that can help you guard your Web privacy and stay safe online.