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Hey! That’s private (or is it?)

April 15, 2010

I like my privacy. Now, I know you what you’re thinking, “So, why do you blog, twitter, have a Facebook page, and a LinkedIn account. (And why, did you just post blatant hyperlinks to promote them on this blog?).

When you look up the defintion of the word private it states “removed from or out of public view or knowledge.” So, isn’t that what I do when I choose “Only Friends” can see my photos and status updates?

If only “privacy” in today’s environment were that easy.

But, as social as I am (and i am), I couldn’t help but be a tad bit surprised when I saw a post on Facebook (from a friend who has permitted me to see her PRIVATE status updates), that about a site, Spokeo, that literally collects and gathers information on all of us and posts it in a public platform online for all the world to read.

Touting themselves as a “search engine” with an “innovative” technology that organizes people-related information from phone books, social networks, marketing list, business sites, etc, Spokeo  allows you to put in any name (with state, to narrow search), to access information about that person that includes things like address, phone, age, names of everyone in the household, house value, income, personal interests (yes, yoga, reading…), and more.

Granted, some of the information is inaccurate, but for the most part, it was unsettling to see my personal information “out there,” gathered together in one place (due to their technology’s  innovative algorithms, which can “piece together the scattered data into coherent people profiles, giving you the most comprehensive intelligence about anyone you want to find.” ) Alarming?  Well, I think so. 

Thankfully, there is an out. Click on the privacy button at the bottom of their page, once you’ve found your specific profile, and follow the instructions to remove yourself from their list. An email confirmation later, and you’re profile is gone – for now. One of my husband’s co-workers removed herself, only to find that she has been added back sometime after the profile was deleted.

I realize with online banking, social media sites, surveys, community forums, and more, we are giving up some of our privacy, but should this give services like Spokeo the right to gather and then SELL our information? 

The defense they have is posted on their site:

 All data is publicly available, so anyone can access them from their respective sources. However, putting all the data pieces together would take you months. Spokeo automates the data aggregation for you and makes it FREE.

Traditional data companies have been quietly gathering people’s data for years, but they charge about $50 per report. Spokeo’s technology reduces the data acquisition costs and gives you the same powerful intelligence for FREE. By tearing down the price barrier, Spokeo revolutionizes the way people connect with each other.”

Tell me what you think? Have we gone too far already, by allowing our credit card information to be posted on websites? Putting our personal interests on Facebook? Tweeting about our favorite restaurants (yes…even that is profiled someplace, I’m sure).

Is it just me? Or does anyone  else think that the pendulum has swung way to far the other way?

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