Friday, May 28, 2010

OFF TOPIC - Online Privacy: Your Life Is an Open Book

Original Article (Listen)

05/28/2010

By MICHAEL MURRAY

Social Networks, People Search Aggregators Open More Personal Info. Can You Protect Yourself?

For a $2.95 a month subscription on Spokeo.com, anyone can find your name, age, ethnicity, marital status, religion, politics, address, home phone number, mobile phone number, e-mail address, social networking profiles, photos, videos and blogs.

The website uses an algorithm to search public databases, so the information is only as accurate as the sources, but many may be surprised by the amount of accurate information available online. As opposed to social networks, people search engines like Spokeo.com do not require you to sign up for anything in order for your information to be found.

Search yourself on Spokeo.com and you may be surprised to find how much information is available to anyone with a computer and a modem. Although public records have always made certain information available, the Internet age, and the subsequent rise of social networks, has increased the ease with which people can track down general, and personal, information about you. But are these sites also a new tool for scammers and identity thieves?

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office released a consumer alert about Spokeo on May 7.

"The difference with these web sites is that information from a variety of disparate sources is aggregated, collated, and presented in one place. It's like pieces of a puzzle put together. The result is that consumers enjoy less privacy, and that is understandably shocking," the AG said on its website.

"The reason we singled out [Spokeo] is we received numerous inquiries from consumers," Arkansas Deputy Attorney General Jim DePriest told ABC News, although he made clear that Spokeo is one of many sites that aggregate personal information. "Consumers are a little taken aback that this information is available in one place, and they feel that their privacy has been invaded, so we are responding to those fears."


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