Spokeo is a search engine that is specifically designed to collect YOUR information to make public. My frustration with Spokeo and other data aggregators this is that they do not ask your permission to expose your information nor notify you of their actions. They just happily make money by placing you at risk.
Spokeo has been around for several years, so why am I writing this now? The short answer is that I got a Google alert informing me of the data so it just recently pissed me off. I tested the service when it was first getting underway and but then the data was pretty sparse. Now you’ll be uncomfortable about what they’ve collected – and display about you.
To start go to Spokeo, and enter your (or someone else’s) name, phone number (cell or home phone), email alias, or user name.
The ‘top level’ information is free, you pay to see more info, and/or they make money by advertising a company that will help you keep your information off sites like Spokeo. But within that top level FREE information you learn quite a bit about the person you are looking up including:
|Age||Full name (with middle initials)||Marital status||Address (including Google Earth View)||Gender|
|Religious affiliation||Educational status||Who else lives in your home||Ethnic background||Horoscope sign|
|Phone number (even ‘private’ numbers and cell numbers)||Whether you own a home, and the home’s worth||Economic and wealth levels||Lifestyle and Interests (like: loves reading, has children, enjoys shopping, subscribes to magazines.||Neighborhood info like cost of homes, average incomes, ethnic and age profile,|
|Social networks participated in||Publicly posted photos||Email address||Political affiliation||Occupation|
In their own words, this is what the company says they’re about (italics added):
Spokeo is a search engine specialized in aggregating and organizing vast quantities of people-related information from a large variety of public sources. The public data is amassed with lightning speed, and presented almost instantly in an integrated, coherent, and easy-to-follow format.
While an individual could on their own, for example, potentially locate a person’s phone number or address by searching phone books, then redirect their search to a county tax assessor’s office to determine a home’s value, they would have to conduct literally hundreds of searches to discover all of the information available through only a single search on Spokeo.
Spokeo’s unique and powerful algorithms can swiftly navigate, sift through, and collect multitudes of scattered data that are spread across hundreds of locations, and synthesize that information in one convenient summary, delivering the most comprehensive snapshot of people-related, public data offered online to date. The search results represent an unparalleled mosaic of the vast stockpiles of public information accessible, and can offer invaluable insight into both the individual being searched, as well as the different types of information published.
When it comes to locating people-related information, Spokeo’s powerful search and organization technology far surpasses that of conventional search engines. That is because Spokeo’s specialized web crawlers can penetrate lesser accessed, content-rich areas of the web, collectively known as the “deepnet” which many general-purpose search engines cannot. The “deepnet” is home to vast and largely untapped, dynamically-generated sites. And, since the majority of people-related public records are frequently stored on these types of sites rather than on web pages, Spokeo has a distinctive advantage over traditional search engines to which these rich stockpiles of data remain out of reach.
In other words, Spokeo exposes far more information about you than even Google exposes. Without your consent. Without your knowledge.
If you want to know more about someone, you can pay a monthly fee to dig deeper.
So how do you remove your information from Spokeo’s search results?
You’ll notice in the first Spokeo graphic in this article, on the bottom of the page they have a section called Protecting Your Online Identity, and that it contains their justification that boils down to… everyone else has your info, all we do is collect it…as well as a product pitch to pay to be protected. “All of the information that appears on Spokeo is publicly available and therefore may appear on other sites. To protect your online identity you can use a service like Reputation to manage your publicly available information.” Think about it, they get to make money off exposing you, while you have to pay to protect it. That’s just wrong.
If you’re still determined to have your information removed (and you should be) they have the following privacy statement and instructions for removing yourself:
While our search results show only publicly-accessible information gathered from hundreds of public sources, such as phone books, marketing surveys, business sites and more, we understand that you are concerned about the information shown our search results, and allow all users to opt out. You can do so by clicking on the Privacy link located at the bottom of the page which will take you here: http://www.spokeo.com/privacy
Removing Search Results
- Locate the search result you want removed. For name search results, click on the listing you want removed.
- Copy the URL from your browser’s address bar.
- Go to http://www.spokeo.com/privacy
- Paste the URL.
- Provide your email address (required to complete the verification process).
- Type in the Captcha Code exactly as you see it.
- Check your Inbox for the confirmation email, and click on the link to complete removal process.
- Once you click on the link, be sure you see the following message:
Once you’ve removed your information:
- Put a reminder on your calendar for a month from now, and check again to see if your information remains off the service.
- Tell your friends
- Contact your elected officials and demand better privacy regulation – including better privacy over your property records.
- Start requesting additional sites take down your information. For example, have views of your home removed from Google’s Street View (see my blog How to Remove Images of Your Home from Google’s Street View), remove information from White Pages, and so on.