Category Archives: stalkers

MyAKA C&D from Intelius

Good Times: When Intelius Threatens to Sue

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.

I’m sorry I let you down world.  You too, dear reader(s).

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Foursquare moves on from the checkin

Death to the Check-in (one can hope)

I was reading Christina Warren’s article on Foursquare’s transition from stalking tool…I mean check-in app…to Yelp clone and couldn’t help but hope that this is the end of the check-in.  I realize they moved this to their new app Swarm and that Facebook still enables this sort of feature but enough is enough.

I believe we all need to assume a certain level of personal responsibility but technology companies also have a responsibility to develop products that, I don’t know, don’t put us in eminent danger.  Foursquare and their check-in nonsense was about as great a risk to personal safety as one can imagine.  Encouraging people to share with the world and every knucklehead in it exactly where you are grabbing a coffee early in the morning or drink late at night is insanity.  And let’s not forget how haphazardly they treated this data by allowing open access to their API and the birth of the Girls Around Me app.  Only after significant outcry did they button up the API.

I don’t know whether their version of Yelp will be a success but feel, as Christina points out, they’re a bit late to the game and Yelp is so synonomous that they have an awful lot of catching up to do.  I’m just happy to see them moving away from the check-in centric model and hope this is the end of a ridiculous and dangerous trend.

Stop checking in, good people.  If not for me, then for the children.

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300x250_SomeoneMayBeSearching

I Found Your Address in Google, Why Don’t I Drop By

If you’re like me, you hate the drop by.  So dreaded is the drop by that I lived by a rule of not making friends in apartment buildings I’ve lived in.  We all have a cell phone glued to our ear or thumbs.  We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any number of ways in which our friends and loved ones can drop us a line to see if it’s cool to drop in.  But what about perfect strangers?  Thanks to stalking websites like Spokeo and Intelius, absolutely anyone can purchase your address and drop by unannounced.  It happens more often than you think, it happened to someone I know, and is one of the main reasons I jumped in the privacy ring.

But worry not internet friend, these sites state that they are for connecting lost loved ones and such.  Surely no one, such as that creep you met on OkCupid (I really hope you didn’t meet him), would use one of these services for a nefarious purpose.  Nor would that coworker who always seemed a bit off in the break room and was recently let go.  Or that guy who always seems to be at the market when you are.  Of course these sites wouldn’t enable them to gain access to your personal information and violate your privacy and safety.  Yeah they would; and happily.  You see, this is what their entire business model is built on and business is good.

If you haven’t lately (or *gasp* ever), run a Google search on yourself and you’ll see these stalkers best friends tripping over each other for expensive, premium ad space just itching to sell your personal details.  If you think this should be illegal, I agree, but unfortunately it is not as they are simply pulling public record information, making it easily searchable and, naturally, profiting off of it.

Hey now, say these enablers of creep, we allow you to find your personal record and remove it.  After, of course, you meander through our maze of steps designed to frustrate you into abandoning the process.  And don’t mind that in many cases you have to signup and give us your email address in order to deactivate your listing.  P.S., as soon as your public record is updated, your listing will reappear.

In addition to the burdensome removal process, there are hundreds of sites listing this information for sale and your choices in combating this are unfortunately few.  You can attempt to manage these records yourself but I’ve done it and it is both frustrating and time consuming.  The other option is to use an anti-stalking tool like SafeShepherd or Reputation.com.  These fine folks will monitor and remove your information from these sites for a small monthly fee.  Our service is also designed to negate the creepers as your name and address are not collected and therefore these sites have no way to link your number to you.  We can help moving forward but you need something to cleanup what is already available.

I recommend using a service and putting the time you save to reading this blog or thinking of the next best Kickstarter campaign.  However, if you enjoy banging your head against a wall, here are a few helpful links to get you started with some of the biggest offenders.

Intelius https://www.intelius.com/optout.php
Spokeo http://www.spokeo.com/optout
PeopleFinders http://www.peoplefinders.com/manage/default.aspx
People Smart http://www.peoplesmart.com/optout
WhitePages http://www.whitepagescustomers.com/get-help-with-a-personal-listing/#removelisting
MyLife http://www.mylife.com/privacy-policy/
Google Person Finder https://support.google.com/personfinder/?hl=en#1628148
WhoWhere http://www.whowhere.com/
Zaba Search http://www.zabasearch.com/block_records/
Search Bug http://www.searchbug.com/peoplefinder/
InstantCheckmate http://www.instantcheckmate.com/optout/
BeenVerified http://www.beenverified.com/optout

Stay safe fellow traveler.  I’m sorry I had to be the bearer of bad news but I encourage you to share this with anyone you care about.  This scourge is rampant but without your data, they have no viable business.

John

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