When we use Google Maps, we can see our own house, but we probably don’t mind that other people can see it, too. When we flip through a Whitepages directory, we can find people’s phone numbers and addresses, are we are fine with it since Whitepages directories have been delivered to our homes for decades. So why then, when we use Spokeo, are we surprised by how much it reveals about us?
Because we’ve never seen anything like Spokeo before. People are skeptical about new technologies that break existing perceptions. When search engines came out in late 90’s, people were concerned about the ease in which others could discover their personal websites. When social networks came out in 2002, people were hesitant to post their personal pictures online. Every time a new technology brings people closer together, new privacy implications emerge.
Spokeo aggregates publicly available information. It’s not the "magic" that some people believe it is, but rather, it’s just an aggregation technology that organizes scattered public information in a way that has never been done before. Many people believe in a concept called "privacy by obscurity", which argues that public information is private if you don’t know how to find it. This concept is flawed, however, because the fact you, yourself don’t know how to find such information does not mean that other people are equally clueless. What Spokeo does is something that many marketing and investigative firms have done for years and years, so this information has been available for quite some time, just without your knowledge! Spokeo automates the traditionally laborious data aggregation and analysis, making information available to everyone
Spokeo respects your privacy, and we want to make it easy for you to opt-out of Spokeo search results at any time. If you don’t feel comfortable about your information on Spokeo, you can go to our Privacy page to opt-out right away. Please note that to prevent abuse, we have implemented several algorithmic checks to make sure that you are only opting out yourself – not our entire database. Also note that opting out of Spokeo does not remove your public information on other websites. If you encounter problems, please email privacy[AT]spokeo[DOT]com.
The current Spokeo 4.0 launched only a couple weeks ago, so we are still improving our site based on user input. Recently we discovered that our abuse-prevention algorithm might be too restrictive, and now we are busy working on a solution to better meet people’s needs. Building something new does not have the benefit of learning from others’ past experiences; as a result, it requires iterations after iterations of user feedback and adjustment. We will not slack off though as we are committed to building the best people search engine ever.
Posted in The Spokeo Perspective