Spokeo is spooky
An online source of your personal information
HAVE YOU EVER TYPED your own name into
www.google.com and seen what comes up? It seems
innocent enough. There might be a link to your
Facebook profile or information about where you
went to high school—nothing all that surprising.
However, a new social search site called Spokeo has
begun gathering and posting all information about
individuals, including, but not limited to, name, age,
marital status, interests and (perhaps the most
scary) home address and phone number.
Think this affects you only if you are on
Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking
site? Think again! According to research, this information is gathered from public sites or sources
where it is already posted. Spokeo merely aggregates
it. But that doesn’t mean it’s reliable. When employees of Fightback.com entered their own names, they
were surprised to learn that a lot of the information
How it works. When you visit www.spokeo.com
you are prompted to start a search for a name, an
e-mail address, a phone number or friends. (You
need to enter your e-mail address and e-mail password for this last one—probably not a good idea.)
Once you click “Search,” you are shown if a person
is in the Spokeo database. If the person is in the
database, a page with a “Basic Profile” is shown. You
can click one of the prompts on the page to see additional information, such as photos and videos. Once
you click on any of these prompts, if you are not
already a member, you will be asked to purchase a
membership to see “full results.”
What is Spokeo? According to Wikipedia.org,
it is “a social network aggregator website that
aggregates data from many online and offline
sources (such as phone directories, social networks,
government censuses, real estate listings, and business websites).… All data collected by Spokeo is
publicly accessible from its original sources....
Spokeo does not originate data and information
available is only as good as its source.” (Additional
info is available from Snopes.com at www.snopes.
com/computer/internet/ spokeo.asp, including info
about the difficulty of trying to remove oneself from
“Spokeo indexes third-party data in ways similar to Google or Bing,” its site states. “Spokeo does
not control or maintain any aggregated third-party
data, and therefore cannot guarantee its accuracy or
currentness. Spokeo does not publish directory listings for children under 18.…”
I BOOKED A ;ight and rooms
on Hotwire.com. They used
US Airways and Embassy
Suites. This trip is to see
our son as he is deploying to
Afghanistan. Six days before
we were to leave to see him,
his orders were changed
to deploy four days early.
I contacted Hotwire for help.
They got me new (but lesser)
rooms at a higher price and
a new ;ight (but with
penalties). The total extra
cost so far is $400 plus. I do
understand they need to
make money, but under the
circumstances I thought they
could be a little patriotic.
I have sent each company
an e-mail through their site.
I have received no response.
At the very least, I want to
get the word out about these
business practices toward
those serving in the
Since Spokeo is getting so much attention, it
begs the question, is this the first website like this?
The answer is that it is not. Sites like this have
existed for a long time. So, why are people so upset?
People are upset mostly because they didn’t
know that this information is already online. This
discovery feels much like a violation.
Opt-out options. Spokeo does give you the
option to opt out of having your name listed on their
site, but you must enter your e-mail address for
“verification” purposes. Unfortunately, your e-mail
address could then be sold to a third-party advertiser. So, is opting out a good idea?
Sadly, very little is available to do apart from that
option. You have to give your billing
information to sites such as Amazon.
com or Overstock.com if you purchase anything, so that’s not exactly
deletable information. Also, you can’t
erase your presence online completely
unless you plan on never ordering anything online again.
The best you can hope
for is better legislation when
it comes to the sharing of
information online among
sites where you are required
to enter personal information. We recommend writing your congressperson
shtml) and requesting that
such laws be enacted now.
While it is always
risky to enter your information as it pertains to
purchasing online, that
doesn’t mean you can’t take
steps to ensure that secure
sites actually keep your
info secure. C
El Paso, Texas
For now, stick
with the alterna-
tive flight and
hotel that Hot-
wire booked for
call the Embassy
Suites and US Airways
sentatives and ask them
to take care of some of
the extra cost. Do not
go through Hotwire, as
they are not the policy
makers. Also, keep all
documents and write
down the names of those
with whom you speak.
© 2010 FIGHT BACK! INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate ( www.fightback.com).
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