Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bob, Weave, Aggregate -- it's, Round 2

A reader named Sheryl left this comment about my last post:

I've used Spokeo for a while now, so I'm pretty familiar with some of the issues you're addressing in your post. The only stuff that comes up in email searches is public data that you've posted. If you have your social network profiles set to "private", then your info won't come up in the search. Spokeo does NOT have IP addresses; they only display IP addresses for the email server, not for your personal computer. I've opted out a few listings, and realized there was a limit as well. Most people shouldn't have more then 2-3 listings to remove, but if you do, I guess I'd suggest to create a junk email address that you can use to remove the other listings.

In case it's not obvious, this is a Spokeo person posing as a disinterested party. How do I know? I have a traffic counter attached to this blog site. This comment came from an IP address labeled "Spokeo." So much for Sheryl's brushing off IP addresses.

That's not the only inaccuracy. Remember that I tried to have my email addresses removed from the site? All are still there tonight but one. That's an even tighter "opt-out" limit than the company admits to.

Worse, there's a photo linked to one of the addresses--a photo that now exists only on a web page without links. If it was ever on Facebook, it isn't now. The only people who can find it are people I sent the URL to. So I thought. (Thank God none of the photos have captions.)

I don't even want to know how got this photo. I just want it gone.

Aside from the implications of this dubious tap-dancing by the company itself, Spokeo-style "aggregation" is dangerous. Very. It makes anonymous snooping easy.

I'm not talking about your curious mom, your boy- or girlfriend, or your roommate, who might make you blush. There's also your jealous ex, the lady who doesn't like your kids, your local gossip, a stalker, or some wacko cyberbully.

Want to see semi-accurate information on your family in the hands of a Lori Drew, the midwest neighbor mom who drove young Megan Meier to suicide?

There is NO legit reason for packaging and posting private information on random individuals. At least I can't think of any. And Spokeo isn't trying to. Here's their teaser for checking up on your friends:

Does this look legit to you? To me it's just creepy.

Should you trust Sheryl's bosses?

Not a chance.

1 comment:

Jeremy Woods said...

It feels like a violation to post any private information without consent, especially the information that is not true.

I hope your blog reaches out to a large audience and eventually causes a shutdown of Spokeo.