As if our lack of privacy on Facebook wasn’t enough, now there’s a comprehensive information database that allows any weirdo with a computer to have access to the most detailed information about any one’s life. Behold, Spokeo.
Created back in 2006 and completely revamped earlier this year, Spokeo is the “Internet’s white pages for online stalkers” and every other sub-species of creeps out there on the Internet.
The site boasts: “Quickly uncover hidden photos, videos, and secrets. Scan your email contacts and be shocked by what you find.” And as you can see, they’re marketing to teens with this particular “friends” feature.
The way it works is pretty simple. All you have to do is go to Spokeo.com and type in the name of anybody you know—or don’t know for that matter—and in a matter of seconds you’ll have access to a surprising amount of personal information about that person.
Spokeo pulls just about everything it can find: zodiac signs, phone numbers, household income, and every social network that person’s ever been on—it’s digital paradise for anyone with poor intentions. If that wasn’t scary enough, there’s a paid version of the site that gives the user even more information about whomever they decide to search up. And for those who have ill intentions, I guarantee that a mere $2.95/mo won’t stop them from upgrading.
When I tested out the site I found that there was some inaccurate data, which is probably a good thing. For one, people I know who don’t have children were listed as having them. Houses that I know have fireplaces were listed as not having them. I was surprised to find that Spokeo went as far as listing out the leisure activities that I, and the people I searched, enjoy doing, most of which were accurate. And again, this was the FREE version of the site! Those who pay are also able to view the photos that someone posts on wesbites where they created a profile of some sort, this includes sites like Amazon, Flickr, and even Pandora.
Alternatively, you can search for someone’s info by their email if you don’t know their name. Most of the information that turns up is the same except for the list of IP addresses that come up (again, in the free version) which I’m guessing are linked to your email address since they don’t come up when you search by name. Though I don’t know how someone would use this information to their advantage, I’m sure that if it fell into the wrong hands it could be detrimental to your identity and privacy.
In this day and age we’ve grown to kind of accept the fact that if you’ve posted information about yourself somewhere online, it’s bound to turn up eventually—sometimes it’s as simple as a Google search. But the scary thing about Spokeo is that it provides information about us that we may have never put online (I found that in my case). My assumption is that the data must have been pulled from government resources or other public records such as property listings. Like Timothy James Duffy from Techi.com said, “Sure, this information is all publically accessible, but did you really fill out your census assuming that your answers would be easily searchable on the internet?”
How to remove your personal information from the Spokeo database:
Because of this, it makes it very hard to come up with an all-purpose counter attack to this scary site. But here’s what you can do:
- Go to Spokeo.com and search your name.
- If the listings are accurate enough and you find your name with the correct information about yourself, go to the address bar at the top of your browser and copy the URL (your name should be in the URL).
- Once you’ve done that, click on the very tiny “Privacy” link in the bottom right corner.
- Here you’ll want to paste that URL into the box called “URL” and provide your email address for the confirmation that your profile has been removed from their database.
- Now, do this for your husband, your children (if they’re old enough of course), and anyone else you know whose information may be vulnerable on Spokeo.
Not that we need it, considering the news lately, but let this be a reminder that your private information is NEVER out of reach on the Internet. Educate yourself and educate your children to take precaution when posting anything about themselves online. The key is educating and training the younger generation NOW so that when they’re older they’ll have a good understanding of smart Internet protocol.