Is It Unethical To Google Your Clients?


Preston's Blog, Preston Bailey, Google Clients, Ethics

Dear Preston:

I have an ethical question for you. My partner wants to Google our clients to find out more about their finances but I always feel as though I am doing something wrong when I do this. It feels as though I am snooping and finding information about their private life.  Also, what happens if you find more information than you anticipated? What if they are a reformed criminal or have done something you really don’t agree with? How would you turn them down?




Dear Curious:

Good question!  I don’t feel that Googling is a matter of ethics but more a matter of research and sales. I will admit that I do feel a bit weird when I Google a potential client, but I do it in the spirit of understanding them better and in order to make a better impression.  After all, there’s a good chance they have Googled me as well!

I personally believe the best way to sell something of value to a client is to understand who they are and what they can afford.  To answer your question, yes, I do feel it is “snooping” in a sense, yet, we are in a business, and in a business, especially sales, knowledge is power. It is a privilege that we live in a time that we have this kind of information readily available to us, so why not use it?  With that said, I am always careful with the information I find in reference to their past and reputation. I adhere to the notion that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and if what I find is questionable, I will still meet with the client in person and come to my own conclusions. If someone has done something they are not proud of and paid their dues to society, I think they also have rights to hire someone to design and plan a fun party. The exception to this rule would be something severe such as someone who has been convicted of something like child molestation or a crime against humanity.

Readers: if a potential client committed a crime and paid their debts to society, would you work with them? What are your thoughts about Googling clients in general?