Online Invasion: Spokeo.com
Over the past few months the team at MyAKA has been intrigued - and a bit worried - about all of the privacy invasions we've been reading about in the news. It seems like every day you hear about some new website that is secretly mining personal data or using consumer information for shady purposes. Particularly alarming is a website known as Spokeo.com. We were shocked to find out that, despite never having heard of the site before, it had quite a bit of personal information, including satellite images of our homes.
What Is Spokeo.com?
According to its website, "Spokeo is a people search engine that aggregates white-pages listings and public records." Sounds useful, until you consider just how much of your personal information may be floating out there on the web, waiting to be snatched up by such a service.
Spokeo's website can also pull information from social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter, and match it with public listings elsewhere on the web. This means that users who search for you using your name, email address or home address can see a comprehensive listing of many of the activities you've participated in while surfing the web.
The website does claim to have some useful purposes. In addition to connecting you with others, the site says you can use the service to discover the identity of unknown callers and telemarketers. In this way, the device may be useful to help defeat fraud, but what about the information it collects from unwitting internet users?
What We Found Out
Using our Founder’s information as an example, we decided to see exactly what sort of information Spokeo.com had at its disposal. The initial thought was that there would not be much in the way of information as he is a rather private person and takes his security seriously. And so, we were very surprised when typing "John Skorick" into the Spokeo search bar and saw a tremendous amount of private information appear on the screen.
The first thing we discovered was a virtual map with pins in it pointing to the home states of all of the John Skoricks listed on the site. We saw pins on both his home state of North Dakota and current state of California. Clicking on the California pin revealed a full name and home address.
Next came a personal profile that was incredibly accurate. It accurately displayed not only gender but also age. What's worse, it listed an actual address and phone number, with asterisks in the place of a few important details. However, there was a link to reveal these details - for a price. A six-month subscription to Spokeo costs just about $4 per month and allows one to unlock all the personal details which they collecting unbeknownst to those who they are collecting these details on.
What to Do About This Issue
This story should serve as a wakeup call for those like us who think that their life on the web is private. Users who are concerned about their privacy should seek out websites like Spokeo to remove their information. This may be easier said than done - navigating Spokeo proved difficult, and we had to scroll all the way to the bottom of the home page to find a link for removal. Fortunately, this link did eventually solve the problem.
Always think twice about entering personal information online, even when signing up for trustworthy services from companies like Facebook or Google. You can maintain several email addresses or set up a virtual phone number to help throw off websites like Spokeo, if you feel so inclined. Just remember - your internet privacy should be your top concern when browsing the web!