Intelius, chief among stalker websites, once threatened to sue me. Here’s why.
Prior to launching MyAKA we entered beta with a few trusted partners and visions of a successful Google Adwords campaign. Naturally we added targeted terms such as ‘second number’, ‘private number’, ‘alias number’, etc… but thought there must be a way to also gain some creative lift.
Being that MyAKA was created as a means to combat stalker websites like Spokeo and Intelius (and the hoards of others) I thought what better way to reach the people who need our services than to target these purveyors of privacy invasion. And so, we setup a number of campaigns targeting keyword terms which these enablers of creep bid on, such as “how do I find someones address”, “locate (insert name)”, “Where does (insert name) live?” or work or hangout or…you get the point. Then it dawned on me. The people who are entering these terms are the creeps, perverts and stalkers who are trying to track someone down and find where the live. We don’t want to associate with this riff-raff, we need to reach their intended targets. But how?
We decided to bid on the company names such as “intelius”, “spokeo”, “white pages”, “people finders”, etc… The idea was that people would be trying to find out how someone, such as a complete stranger, found out where they lived and showed up at their doorstep to harass them (or worse). They would find the names of these companies, search for them and our ads would be displayed telling them how to mitigate the stalkers best friend.
Within 2 hours of our ads going live, legal from Intelius sent me a C&D.
Now, I realize that bidding on another’s company name or TM isn’t proper etiquette but I felt that exposing their practices was more important than playing nice. I thought it very interesting how quickly they responded but also, what a great way to get the word out about these creeps and what we’re doing to try and harm their privacy invasion business.
I consulted with our attorney and, shock and horror, they’ve been involved in a number of lawsuits where they were the plaintiff gripping about this and that. Color me dismayed that a company which sells peoples private information to complete strangers is also a lawsuit troll. I was quoted mid-five figures to defend a lawsuit and, as a boot-strapped startup, we couldn’t fund the defense so I decided to take the ad down and look to raise awareness to their shenanigans through other means (like blogging!).
If only I’d been as clever as The Oatmeal and raised attention to their shitty business the world would be a much better place.
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