You may not have heard of it yet, but a site called spokeo.com has been publishing information about us including our addresses, approximate credit scores, home value, income and any other information you’ve shared online. Thanks to CLIFFVIEW PILOT contributor Bill Tjaden, here’s what you can do about it.
The brainchild of 27-year-old Harrison Tang, a Stanford University student, spokeo.com emerged five years ago.
However, less than two weeks ago, it began scanning across social networks — Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Yelp and LinkedIn — blogs, photo albums, dating sites, music networks, video sites, ecommerce stores, and other web services in real-time to help find online profiles with similar usernames.
Spokeo estimates that it uses nearly 50 sources to pull your data.
It can’t access our Social Security or driver’s license number of any bank information. But just about everything else is fair game for the Internet phonebook: hobbies, RELIGION, photos we’ve posted, satellite shots of our homes and property — although the incomes are often way off, making us all seem a lot more well-off than we are.
“Until the federal government engages in legislation that says these companies must get every individual’s permission, or there must be an opt-out, we’re going to continue having this problem, with the fear that someone is going to find out who you are, where you live,” said Andrew Scott, a former cop-turned-criminal backgrounding consultant. “It’s very disconcerting.”
It’s also a mixed bag. A good portion of the information that Spokeo returns to paying customers is often inaccurate. Unfortunately, it also limits the number of listings you can remove per day (there’s more bad news, but we’ll save it for the end).
To remove yourself: Search under your name, town and state. Once your page comes up, suppress the urge to shout, “WHAT THE….?
Instead, copy the URL.
Go to the bottom right and click on the “Privacy” button. Paste the URL in the field underneath “To remove a listing from Spokeo…”
You’ll have to enter an email, so use or create a secondary one.
Click “Remove Listing.” Check your email; the removal confirmation from Spokeo should come immediately. Click: “To complete the removal process…”
OK, now the crummy part: In case you didn’t already know, removing a listing like this doesn’t remove your information from the other data sources that provided it. You literally have to contact each site one by one — and there are plenty of them, with new ones popping up all the time (Pipl, ZoomInfo, ZabaSearch, Radaris, and Intelius, to name some).
Or, as Snopes.com put it: “[R]emoving your personal information from display by Internet aggregators (such as Spokeo) isn’t a one-time deal, but rather more like a never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole: You might swat down an aggregator site or two, but more of them will inevitably pop up.”
This is why all those apps that people are so fond of are really insidious. Any time a site requires you to enter information to participate, you are essentially handing them your resume-plus.
So, as much as you hate reading this: You can best keep this information from turning if you DON’T PLAY.
Of course, depending on your age, you may want the entire world to know how to track you down should someone have the desire to do so. I live alone, with protection, so it doesn’t faze me much. But you can be sure if I had a family, I’d be plenty concerned.
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