On-Line Privacy Public Service Announcement: Spokeo

Start the New Year off with a bang – check out what Spokeo knows about you. Spokeo, an online people search tool, warns up front that it’s not your grandma’s phone book. No, it certainly is not. My grandma’s phone book didn’t provide a map to my home, with a sat picture of it, as well as an estimated property value, my email addresses, age, relationship status and ages and names of my family members, hobbies, estimated income, social haunts and even more. Sure it may all reside somewhere in the public record, but a service that scours on- and off-line information, aggregating it in one easy-to-access location available to anyone seems just a wee bit on the sketchy side, even for my own open on-line sharing viewpoint.

I have known about Spokeo for a while, but some recent updates make it a bit spookier. In November, Spokeo 5.0 was released, implementing graphics, icons, and a new design intended to present information in a more visual way. Just a few days ago, Spokeo released Username search, which scans social networks, blogs, photo albums, dating sites, music networks, video sites, ecommerce stores, and other web services in real-time to help find online profiles with similar usernames.

If you really want to stalk, I mean, search someone, you can upgrade to premium ($14.95 for three months and $59 for a year) and get name, phone, email, username search, and an import feature allowing users to utilize their email address book and social network contacts to pull information. Premium membership also features a tracking system – once the account is added to a friend’s list, Spokeo will periodically check for new updates from the account, with notifications and an update counter.

Spokeo’s information is scary accurate, but not completely accurate. Thus, one might be given the mistaken impression that all of the information presented is spot on, which it most decidedly is not if my own search was any indication.

Today I found a quick procedure for pulling yourself out of the database, which you may want to do when you see what Spokeo can spit out about you to anyone with an internet connection, thanks to Chris Hardwick over at the Nerdist blog. To summarize:

1. Navigate to Spokeo
2. Search your name in the box
3. Copy the URL when you get your result
4. Look for the Privacy link in very small type at the bottom of the page. Click.
5. Complete the form by pasting the URL in the field “To remove a listing from Spokeo…”
6. Enter a dummy email (create one for this purpose with Yahoo, Gmail or one of those temp email services). You don’t want the Spokeo creeps getting a hold of you, that’s for sure.
7. Click “Remove Listing”
8. When you get the email in your dummy account, click on the link “To complete the removal process…”
9. Go into your browser preferences and search your cookies for “spokeo.” Delete them.

Then, lean back and rest comfortably until the next on-line privacy hullabaloo. Go ahead, thank me.


One More Reason to Love Firefox: High-Powered People / Profile Search

There are all sorts of reasons for attorneys and everyone else to be interested in what kind of information is lurking on-line about particular individuals. People get involved in business dealings and litigation, from parties to experts, from witnesses to jurors. Potential clients are on-line creating profiles and offering information about needs to be met. And attorneys who are sensitive to modern modes of communication are on-line, promoting their brands and, hopefully, following up to determine whether their on-line marketing is making the desired impression.

Enter Identify. Based on the Google Social Graph API, Identify is a Firefox plug-in that allows you to search of profile pages and track links.  When viewing a page, just click “control + i” and get a pop-up box showing connections from all around the Web associated with the person referenced on the viewed page. Primarily designed to profile pages, it can be used as well with web-pages with the proper coding and information.

If you have Firefox, you can get the plug-in here. Check out your own profiles and see how well you represent on the Web.

Hat tip to Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb.

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