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Have you heard of Spokeo?

My daughter-in-law sent me information about the web site Spokeo.com. It is so frightening. This web site is a personal information aggregator. All you do is type in someone's name, email, or phone number and you are treated to this person's age, address, phone number, email, picture of their home, financial worth, and who lives in their home. You can remove your profile from the public search (which I did), but folks can still pay $35 and get all of this information and more.

I know all of this information is gained from the public domain. However, it takes some effort to dig it all up. Compiling it and selling it as a product is akin to someone taking my picture then selling it. It is illegal to sell my image without my permission. It should also be illegal to sell an "image" of my personal data. I sent the following letter to my legislators encouraging them to address this issue. It would be nice to see them do something that actually contributes to the common good.
Dear ________________

I am very concerned about internet sites like Spokeo.com. All I have to do is type in a name and I am given the person's address, phone number, email, how many people live in the house, ages of the house's occupants, etc. This site then offers to sell an even more detailed aggregate of personal information for a fee.

I have not released any of this information for commercial use. It is a misuse of my personal information to sell it. It seems to me that this is comparable to selling an unauthorized photograph. If someone takes my picture, he is not allowed to sell my image without my permission. I would like to see legislation that requires my permission before a commercial entity can sell an aggregate of my personal information.

Spokeo and similar personal data aggregators pose several dangers to the community. When I checked my parents' profiles, Spokeo revealed that two affluent, elderly adults lived alone. This sets them up as a target for con artists and thieves.

Also, it could have a chilling effect on free speech. We saw with the Prop 8 vote in California that those who disagreed with Prop 8 supporters launched personal attacks that included harassment and threats of violence. It is very intimidating to know that if I sign my name to a political, social, or religious position, at the click of a mouse, opponents will have my address complete with a map to my house and a photo of my house. Even if I remove my name from the free search, for a mere $35.00 anyone who wants a summary of my personal information can get it. If this company wants to profit from selling my personal information, it should have to get my permission as well as compensate me for using my information as a commodity.

I would appreciate your attention to this matter.
By the way, blogging buddies, I checked several of your names. You are listed in their data base!

Comments

Barb, sfo said…
Wow, that site loads slowly!

I took myself out of their database. Thanks for the tip. Much of their info is wildly inaccurate, like the part where I live in a $1 million+ home! BAHAHAHAHAHAH! As if! And apparently my husband lives on the same street but in an entirely different county (in which we have never lived). Hopefully it won't take off much, but it was good to learn about it!
Rosemary Bogdan said…
This is alarming. I"m on there too and, like barb's. some of the information is incorrect. Thank you for the alert.
Rosemary Bogdan said…
This is alarming. I"m on there too and, like barb's. some of the information is incorrect. Thank you for the alert.
RAnn said…
Spokeo is only one of many sites that sell this information. Intellius is another that sells to the general public. Knowx is owned by data giant Lexis/Nexis and they have extensive records. Their product for businesses that have a need to know is Accurint. I'm not sure how they differ now; they used to be owned by different companies and had different information; I don't think that's the case anymore. Thompson-West also has a databank accessible through their Westlaw product.

Private investigators have access to all sorts of databases. I know one who told me he once found a guy he had been looking for for months because the guy subscribed to a golf magazine and that gave them the computer hit--and that was years ago.

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