Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Threat to Online Privacy - And What You Can Do About It

The debate about online privacy, or lack thereof, has been raging for some time. Lately, a new player in the game has made it all too easy to reveal a ton of information about each of us.

The site is Spokeo ( Visit it, enter your name, and prepare to be alarmed.

Spokeo sifts through information available from numerous sources and compiles them into one frighteningly complete profile: address, phone, probable value of residence, and much, much more. Hardly the sort of stuff any of us wants hanging out there.

However, there is a method to ensure your information is removed from Spokeo:
  1. Go to a free e-mail site -- Yahoo, Gmail, etc. -- and create a new e-mail address for yourself. You'll see why this is advisable in a bit.
  2. Once you've got your new e-mail address, go to the site and look up your information.
  3. When you're at the page where your information is located, copy the URL.
  4. Next, click on the Privacy link at the lower right hand side of the page.
  5. On the resulting page, paste the URL into the indicated field.
  6. Enter your new e-mail address into the indicated field.
  7. Enter the code on the page, then select Remove Listing.
The reason for the new e-mail address is so the address you normally use can't be captured and used by Spokeo, or whoever is trolling the site looking for information.

It's worth noting that Spokeo can also be used to search by e-mail address, phone number and other tools.

Technically, Spokeo is doing nothing illegal. However, for peace of mind and privacy's sake, all are best advised to remove their data from the site ASAP.

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