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A news article was making the Facebook rounds today, warning about a site called Spokeo.com that aggregates publicly available information.

"It can list your address, a picture of your home, how much it cost, how long you have lived there, your approximate age and income, your relationship status and more," the article warned. "And it is online for anyone to see."

Well, sort of.

Around a year ago, Spokeo.com was encouraging people to sign up and link their address books to the site, ostensibly so someone who had friends on multiple social media sites could track them down.

"Enter any single email address, and Spokeo will search across 41 social networks for all related online profiles," the company said, in an email message from January, 2009. "If you import an entire address book, Spokeo will show you all your friends' photos, videos, and blogs."

Apparently, the site did a little more with the information than that.

The article warned that some users had found that the information on the site was incorrect, and so it was for me -- it listed me as married to someone ten years older than his actual age whom I divorced in 2002, that my house was worth $1 million (let me tell you, my *town* is hardly worth that much), that I played hockey and football, and that my 60+ year-old house was built in 2003.

On the other hand, it has the picture of my house from Google Streetview, as well as my address and telephone number, as well as other personal information about me -- plus other personal information I can only see by paying $3 a month.

The article describes a procedure for removing one's information from the site, starting by clicking "Privacy" on the bottom of the site. However, when I did that, the site wanted a Captcha response -- which it did not display properly in either Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer, and which offered no other options for, say, the visually impaired. (A later attempt, after rebooting the browser, worked.)

The site reportedly also gets information from social networking sites such as Facebook, which is likely to increase calls for improved privacy on such sites.

Edited by slfisher: added information

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Last Post by InsightsDigital
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It is absolutely an invasion of privacy. I am a professional and have very little information that I post on the internet, have an unlisted phone number and a block on my phone number when I make calls. Yet my address and Google Street View of my house and other personal info (much incorrect) are available on Spokeo. This info was not posted by me, and must have been gleaned from public records through our county offices. Only sophisticated users would have this access. I have done Google searches on myself and none of this info is available.
With Spokeo, it is all available just by searching for a name.
Will Spokeo be liable when harm comes to those listed?
If someone's house if robbed, or the individual is harmed by someone who locates them (and their spouse and children - all of whom are listed)?

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Thanks for bringing this very important issue up. Nowadays, many social sites broadcast and capitilize on a user's email address book - making it viral but also capturing any associated information along with it. Social networks have shaved away the important concept of privacy but it can come back and haunt you when your social moments (even wrong ones) can be used against you in professional settings.

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