Spokeo knows your secrets – or does it?

Posted by at 5:15PM

So, if you haven’t heard, Spokeo.com is a new website that aggregates your online data. At this point, I’ve personally been sent messages on Facebook and through multiple chat lists. But back to the main topic – in layman’s terms, Spokeo is an online phonebook that tells anyone who looks up your name where you live, your phone number, etc. Yet that comes with a big if. Many web users, when they hear of the site, have a moment of panic. Anyone in the world can find out where I live? They have a picture of my house from Google Maps? This is horrifying!

John Doe might be the generic character that no one can identify, but Spokeo can find him. And the 15,918 who also share his name online.

Except, it isn’t. The first time I looked myself up on Spokeo, I could barely find anything. Yes – my name and email address exist on the web, but I didn’t dig up anything damaging or security-threatening. Although people are worried about their privacy, Spokeo is an aggregator meaning it only collects what’s already out there. That means if Spokeo is somehow able to post your address, and phone number, that means you’ve stored private information somewhere public. Meaning, that it’s not thanks to Spokeo that everyone can find out information about your life – it’s thanks to you.

So the first step in dealing with Spokeo is really simple: take your page off of the web. While Spokeo is a little bit creepier, because it gathers all the information together, it’s really not that much different from Googling yourself (which I advise all of you to do). After you get rid of your Spokeo page, the next step is to actually make sure that information you would prefer to be private is actually inaccessible! I admit to putting too much of myself out there in the heydays of Myspace and when I first got a Facebook but  it’s different now.

In recent times, people are worrying more and more about internet privacy. With aggregator sites like Spokeo, PiplIntelius, and more (no, Spokeo was not even close to being the first site) the first step in protecting your identity online falls in your own hands. So please stop freaking out about Spokeo. I can’t say anything about  the information that can be bought (although some of the websites listed above claim that its for the most part inaccurate), but the way  people conduct themselves online is the main issue here. We’re not victims. If you want to protect your privacy, do it.

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4 Responses to “Spokeo knows your secrets – or does it?”

  1. Amber N. Yoo says:

    I respectfully disagree. Sites like Spokeo, called “online information brokers,” pull personal information mostly from public records, credit card companies, marketing databases, etc.

    Spokeo doesn’t get your “credit estimate” and “wealth level” from information you have published on the Internet.

    Spokeo doesn’t get the price of your house from information you have published on the Internet.

    Spokeo doesn’t get the name of your children and their ages from information you have published on the Internet.

    Spokeo gets this sensitive and private information from public records such as your property tax record, your driver’s license record, your birth record and in some states even your voting record.

    At Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, we get calls from victims of violence, stalking victims and concerned parents who are fearful, frustrated and outraged with the nature of the information being published without their knowledge or permission on the Internet by online information brokers. Blaming the individual for the info on Spokeo is undermining a very serious and legitimate safety and privacy concern!

    If you want the truth about Spokeo and online information brokers, visit the website of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Here is a good page to start at: http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/infobrokers.htm

  2. Crystal says:

    @Amber – I’m not attempting to undermine the privacy issues currently being fought over online. I actually support them – people should have more power over what is published and presented about them online. Yet my main issue with Spokeo is that many people view it (and other aggregator sites) as the greatest evil rather than one small part of the problem. Maybe other people search sites don’t have an opt-out option but this one does. But like the site itself says:

    http://www.spokeo.com/privacy – Please note that removing your Spokeo listing from public searches does not remove your information from the third-party data sources.

    We may not be able to do anything about government or public records, but people using the Internet do have control over the information they put on social websites. There’s no way to stop Spokeo from having access from public records because they’re public! If someone is desperate enough to get the information about your property tax or voting records they (unfortunately) have other options. My main point was that I want people to understand that using discretion in what they actively put online is the first step in protecting their privacy. Spokeo can and will discover things about us – there’s no reason to hand them any additional information. It’s obviously not a solution, but its definitely a first step.

  3. Susan says:

    Removing yourself from Spokeo does NOT REMOVE YOUR INFORMATION from public view — just type in your PHONE NUMBEr and take a look — there’s your info — all but your name… Even if it’s your unpublished phone number.

    YOUR Private Salary, wealth, valuation and more made public in a GROUPING OF INFORMATION TOGETHER for anyone to view, whether the information is CORRECT OR NOT!

    This is dangerous for the ELDERLY!!! This helps scammers find the elderly in a neighborhood from a phone list, they can see who to prey on — this is TERRIBLE~!!!

  4. Souris says:

    1) i had to leave my email in order to reply… Spokeo better not get it!! 2) if it’s simply gathering public data and info that we ourselves provid to sites like fb, then there’s nothing creepy or illegal about it.3) there has to be a mechanism like the “do not call list” to make it easier for people to maintain their privacy and finally… great article!

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