Thursday, January 6, 2011

Internet Privacy

I have received several emails about this site"" over the last 2 weeks and have observed several friends posting about it both on Twitter and on FaceBook.

Here's the main part of the email that seems somewhat consistent:
I recently got notified of a site where people got information about me (including a picture of my house and what it was worth). In an age where identify theft is a daily occurrence, this site (Spokeo) is alarming.

To remove yourself, go to and do a search for your name, click on your name and copy the url of your data, then open up another web page and go to acy and paste the url of your information into it. You have to put in your email address; once you get the email to remove, click on it and you are off of spokeo.

I decided to check out the site on Snopes and found they rated it as True. As Snopes describes it, Spokeo is a "Data Aggregator" that gathers personal information from multiple Public Websites and associates the data when it can. I had 8 entries personally that included my house value, physical address, etc. I did follow their instructions to remove my entries from their system, though I believe the entries probably still exist, but are now hidden from public view.

Although this did resolve things for Spokeo's database entries, it occurred to me that they cannot be the only ones aggregating data from across the Internet. To clarify, the data is already out there, all the did was gather it up into a single location making it more readily search-able. So, I asked myself, "How many more sites like this are out there?".

Very little effort put in resulted in this list of other sites aggregating personal information:


And also got me to The Consumerist editor Ben Popken's June 2010 article "Giant List Of Data Brokers To Opt Out Of". A very good start for a list if I do say so. At the bottom of his article, he even has a link to another Forum post, "Removing your personal information from the Internet, data brokers, marketers, etc". The list there is even longer with some additional links to "How To's" for removing more of your "Public Information".

For those of you with a great deal of concern for your own privacy and that of your family, it may be worthwhile to clear your information off as many of the sites in Ben's article as possible.