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People Research Simplified

An interesting Firefox extension we came across a while back was Identity whose description is at once scary and promising; depending on which side of the fence you look at it. The extension is a social media marketer or compulsive social networker’s dream come true. But this means it may be a cyber stalker’s punching bag as well. The extension can amazingly track identities of individuals across various social network / media sites and create a profile about just about anyone.

Consider you access a random Twitter profile. After installing the add-on, all you need to do is hit [Ctrl] + [I] and it will build a detailed profile comprising various identities of that person on other social networking web sites. How does it do this? It uses two APIs. The first is the Google Social Graph API. This Google project started more than a year ago identifies pages that form profiles of people and tracks linkages between pages connected to a single person. The Yahoo Query Language API manages the extension’s data backend.

Identify is therefore programmed to look up info for any page that has the rel=”me” code in the source. The ‘me’ annotation is part of the XFN (XHTML Friends Network) and FOAF (Friend of a Friend) markups, which are crawled by the Google Social Graph API. The tool can be very useful to learn more about people and their trademark internet handles. Running it on your own profile can be shocking or perhaps even disappointing if it fails to get the lowdown on you. This way, it helps you fine tune your profile if you want a more integrated web presence. Or help people in disassociating profiles that they don’t want linked together. The only hitch is that it requires some work by the developers and doesn’t work really well currently.