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Help! This Web site discloses almost everything about me!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / November 12, 2010 4:41 AM PST

Help! This Web site discloses almost everything about me!

Whoa! I just found out about this Web site: www.spokeo.com. It claims to be "not your grandma's phonebook" but it's more like a spy tool. I entered my name and saw all this personal information: photos, my wife's name, and the scariest part--a photo of my house from Google Street View! This is certainly unsettling. Shouldn't this type of site be illegal? It just makes it too easy for misuse. How can I get my information off of here? Are there other sites like this that I should be aware of? Please help me, I'm really freaked out about this!

--Submitted by: Bryan B.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

This just points to the larger issue you have. --Submitted by: pllam

Welcome to the digital world --Submitted by: High Desert Charlie

It's an aggregator. --Submitted by: Alain Martel1

How to opt out of Spokeo --Submitted by: HoustonMI

Publicly available information that's already out there. --Submitted by: vicki_c

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any aditional advice or suggestions for Bryan, please click on the reply link and submit away. Please be as detailed as possible when providing an answer.
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How to Opt Out of Spkeo
by HoustonMI / November 12, 2010 10:14 AM PST

Spokeo is a terrible site, as far as I'm concerned. The site makes you jump through hoops to get your information off, but it is posssible. Go to the this site. Be sure to enter all your email addys and home addresses. It has to be done one addy at a time.


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Waste of time...
by JCitizen / November 19, 2010 1:06 PM PST

When you go there to opt out, you are just giving them your present email address, which many suspect is what they are doing in the first place; farming for email addresses to sell to spammers. This is as much a folly as trying to opt out of spam emails. You are just giving the creeps ammo to attack your mail box.

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Instead of trying to opt out...
by serraguard / November 21, 2010 2:26 AM PST
In reply to: Waste of time...

From the sounds of it, opting out is not really possible with this site (or many others like it). Maybe we, as internet denizens, should follow the lead of the RIAA and the MPAA. The MPAA and the RIAA couldn't get sites to take down downloads or torrents that carried copyrighted material, when the site was not from a complying jurisdiction. So they, instead, put out fake files that were approximately the same size and type as the copyrighted ones. Though the good files were out still out there, there were (and still are) a lot of bad files.

In our case, disseminating a little disinformation might cause a site like this to become useless. In the same way as above, your real information will still be available. However, when mixed with plenty of garbage, only someone who really knows you will be able to tell the difference. What do you guys think?

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Definitely agree!...
by JCitizen / November 21, 2010 3:40 AM PST

I've been doing that for years! JCitizen is definitely not my real name. You can do a Google search for it and find it usually in the first three results though. This because I am active in the blogosphere.

I've got nothing but fake information at my FaceBook account too!

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by CltSue / November 19, 2010 1:10 PM PST

Thanks so much for the link to opt out. This is disturbing. When I followed the exact instructions to opt out, I got the following message:

In order to prevent abuse, we must limit the frequency of privacy requests. Please try again tomorrow.
Government officials please use your @.gov email address for priority processing.

I tried 3 times. Spokeo is so bogus.

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Was able to remove from SPOKEO listing
by zsirfan / November 19, 2010 2:18 PM PST

I used the privacy link to request removing of listings under my name and my wife's name. I provided my email address and the SPOKEO listing URL, they sent an email with a link to proceed with removal. Upon clicking on the link inside the email, it effectively removed the listings for both of us.

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Doesn't Work
by Grif_RedTeam / November 19, 2010 3:28 PM PST

I did that stuff several months ago for everybody in my family. Our info is still there. The information you fill out goes straight into their junk file.

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No hoops to jump through- piece of cake to be removed
by bikerchick4God / November 19, 2010 4:45 PM PST

I went to your link (THANK YOU) entered the url of the Spokeo page where I showed up, used one of my alias gmail emails clicked the link and in the email and POOF I am now gone. For how long? We shall see....

By the way, EVERYONE needs to have 1 or 2 alias, or throw away, email addresses from gmail. Don't use your actual info when signing up and you will be invisible. I have one I use strictly for forums, another used, well, for opting out of Spokeo, etc Wink You can use Hotmail or Live, gmail or even Netzero for these free accounts. Have fun with the names. One of mine is something like mmmmmmymailboxx@gmail.com Use the same password (NOT YOUR PERSONAL PASSWORD) for all the accounts so log in is simplified.

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What if...
by Jamfan55 / November 19, 2010 11:00 PM PST

what if they're also using your IP address to track your approximate location? Or installing something like a web beacon on your machine?

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(NT) create an alias email at gmail!! Use that email to opt out
by bikerchick4God / November 19, 2010 4:47 PM PST
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Thanks for the link
by ssttoorrmm / November 19, 2010 7:19 PM PST

Thanks. That was easy.

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by Cobalt27 / November 20, 2010 6:07 AM PST

I agree, and have verified that this site (& others like it) are BAD NEWS. I used myself and a friend as examples; we BOTH try every chance we get to file WRONG data about ourselves all over the Web. Wrong names, bogus addresses on junk websites just to be allowed to see the content we're looking for, etc. So all this talk of it being Bryan's "fault" for not "managing his personal information" is rubbish! Both my friend's & my data sprung up EXACTLY correct in every "free" category (I'm NOT paying them, obviously, for the balance)!! I have a "common" name and he's got a rare one. I even tried my familiar versus legal name, and it's got all that, too! Hey, I've never even SIGNED UP for Facecrook, StinkedIn, etc.! The *SOLE* way they got my data was the only time I couldn't provide FAKE data: When I've PURCHASED things online! So, just give up your right to ever BUY ANYTHING, and you'll be fine. Sure, that's REAL PRACTICAL!! We're all stuck unless class action lawsuits are launched to suppress the data collection/distribution, and that'll never see daylight in our lifetimes....

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Another rip off
by greendog519 / November 20, 2010 11:08 AM PST

In order to opt out of the spokeo data base, you must enter the url that displays your information.

BUT, the site will not allow you to access your url until you agree to pay a yearly feel of $35.40. It's a sucker's play, pure and simple.

Don't waste your money. Your personal information is available on other people search web sites. Spokeo is nothing special.

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Re: How to Opt Out of Spokeo
by Glenn51 / November 20, 2010 9:01 PM PST

I went to their site and did as requested to remove any info. When I checked my home phone and cell phones there was info: yes generic but it listed income, carrier, location and home values. I did a copy/ paste of the URL to eliminate typo's. Now there wasn't any names or home address but when requesting data removal it said there was "No listing for that URL.I even include the URL to that very listing. I have contacted customer support to try to remove ALL listings for the phones.
Check ALL phones #'s including your cell phones. They had info regarding my cell phones too!!! Way to Orwellian!

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spkeo opt out
by drusle / November 30, 2010 2:15 AM PST

thanks so very much for info. worked like a charm.

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Yes I agree
by ananthap / November 12, 2010 10:18 AM PST

First off, given what you said, I haven't visited this site since I don't know what it will install on my machine. So any observations have to be generic.

Some such sites have a clause in their [privacy] "agreement" that information you supply will be used to enhance your experience. At the very least the extra information should be accessible only to you. Otherwise, I would quickly back out and start action to get your stuff out.

Even if you voluntarily signed up, I think you have a right to back out and get advice how to have your stuff expunged.

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Publicly available information that's already out there.
by vicki_c / November 12, 2010 10:29 AM PST
In reply to: Yes I agree

I've checked that out during a Facebook alert last year. It's just a compilation of publicly available information combined with general demographic information (e.g., estimate of your income which I'm sure is just based on your zip code). They are a data aggregator. I personally don't worry about it. My name and husband's name, and our address are in the phone book. A 2 second Google Maps view could bring up a satellite view of my house - the street level view looks at my front door. Etc., etc.

Spokeo doesn't have any secrets about you - just info that's already out there combined with some estimating.

You might want to look at the snopes article where they basically say the same thing and also point out that even if you remove your info from spokeo, it still exists in its original source location so to some extent it's futile. If your info is out there on the web somewhere, someone can find it.

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The Problem With These "Aggregators"
by Flatworm / November 12, 2010 10:24 PM PST

The problem here comes from the potential for abuse from bad guys. The information may indeed all be available from public sources, but each public source may require the data user to acquire its data through a variety of qualifying "hoops" (logins, various client software, etc.) that render the actual collection of this data too burdensome and time-consuming for most individuals to collect.

Bad guys are not generally known for their clerical and administrative prowess. This makes their job of "casing the joint" much easier, possibly within the scope of their more limited skill set. It places your identity and your possessions in a kind of jeopardy that they would not be in without this unified source.

I hate these. You should be required to "opt-in," to provide your explicit consent before they can present their data collections about you and your property to others.

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Finally a post with logic!
by tldees / November 21, 2010 1:13 AM PST

There are folks who are "internet smart" and those that are not, I call them the "whiners" !...Social sites, surveys, forums, messaging, I can go on & on! Just because the site has a profile section doesn't mean you have to fill it out! & if you do, don't belly ache when your info shows up somewhere you think it should'nt....! If you put it out there, someone is waiting to get it!

Spokeo is a love/hate thing. I have used it myself to find old Air Force buddies and school friends. Once I find someone with Spokeo I tell them how they can remove there information if they so chose. I removed me & my wife about two years ago & has worked very well, we still DO NOT show up to this day. Removal does work...

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Info is about as correct as a Fairy Tale.
by bigbear639 / November 19, 2010 1:06 PM PST
In reply to: Yes I agree

The information about me is only 25 years old. It shows that I have 5 Children and a Spouse that died 17 years ago and my 2nd one I divorced 10 years ago. I have 2 adukt daughters living in far off States and had 2 stepchildren. The Job I am supposed to be working at is not true. The Address and Phone Number are about all that is right and public info. Not about to correct it. Google is more correct and shows my house, car and the neighborhood. You can even see my cats looking out the window.

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big fairy tale
by tedtks / November 19, 2010 4:31 PM PST

I have been divorced for 10 years - retired since 03 so a lot
of the info is REALLY old data LOL - unless one of you uses this
info to fix it LOL LOL
but - yes - otherwise the info is fairly close and is avail at
your local courthouse - clerks office and tax office - all
public information.
is sort of creepy to know that its this easy to get tho.

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bigg fairy tale
by tedtks / November 19, 2010 4:44 PM PST
In reply to: big fairy tale

decided to look up my family - has everybody still living at
home. been gone for decades !
I have been trying to find a friend from WAY back, in omaha neb. and
I know there are about 23 same names in the area - this had NONE in the
entire state.
so dont feel too worked up. probably cause none of them in ne is
online or useing facebook at some time or another.
I was logged in there for about 3 weeks till I got tired of all
the new advertising crap so canceled and not my mail is down to
the normal level of too much crap.

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It's an aggregator.
by Alain Martel1 / November 12, 2010 10:36 AM PST

All the information you see are freely available. You only need to know where to look for it.

Google street view if obviously from Google. Just about every city in the world have been thoroughly viewed that way.

Your address comes from your city's records.
Your wife's name comes from: national census, real estates records, city records and some more.
Your line phone number is easily accessible using the online version of the phone book.
...and the list of sources goes on and on...
Obviously, just everything you can put on your Facebook wall CAN end up there as it is public. What you put on OTHER's wall is also freely accessible to EVERY ONE in the whole world!
Same thing is true for Tweeter.

It's not illegal to aggregate freely available information, even if it's ethnically questionable.
Anyway, if it's made illegal in the U.S.A., the site can just move itself to any other country in the world, and still be accessible by any U.S.A.'s citizen, company, organization...

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Reprehensible but our own doing...
by PhoenixStudios / November 12, 2010 11:09 AM PST

Reminds me of all the viagra adverts and letters from African gold mines sitting in my junkbox. What was really unsettling was that I found my now deceased daughter's info there. But she was a great fan of facebook and myspace, so that explains that.

These sites are sure to get worse (or better at what they do) as more connections are made thru AI. Comments like this one are probably next, as we are starting to associate our Facebook/Twitter/Whatever account names to comments we post. Lots can be gathered from that for sure, like the fact that my daughter is deceased.

But on the other hand we may be collectively contributing to the world's largest people's directory somehow (on the lighter side) where the entire population of the planet may someday be cataloged, even as the newest members of the planet are born.

Which at some point will lead to a truer democracy, where as global citizens, each with a netid assigned at birth (and perhaps tattooed on the back of our necks), we will be able to participate in the governance of the planet, as we should.

But on the darker side perhaps we would simply be cataloged as fodder for the global mill. It all depends on what the power's that be decide they want to do with us all: sell us soap or set us free.

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Welcome to the Digital World
by High Desert Charlie / November 12, 2010 11:15 AM PST

Hi Bryan,

This question is sort of a carry-over from last week's question, "What can the Internet Do for Me?". There is a price to be paid for all of the readily available information we see and share over the web.

In this day and age, everyone leaves what's called a "Digital Signature". You don't even need to own a computer!!! Every time you apply for a credit card, or use a credit card, or get a driver's license, or buy a house, a record is made. Today of course, nearly all records are maintained digitally.

The previous posts were correct about the site you mentioned being an aggregator, but they aren't the only ones. Not by a long shot. With about $35.00 and a little leg work, your entire life's history is out there for everyone to see. I'm not saying that I like it or dislike it, but that's the way things are.

There are some people out there who try to evade this kind of tracking using a method commonly called "Going Off the Grid". In order to accomplish this, an entirely new lifestyle has to be adopted. They pay for everything in cash. They don't work, or if they do work it's off the books so their social security number doesn't show up. They don't pay taxes, and they don't have a home address. They can't rent a car or fly on any legitimate airline. Some go so far as to completely avoid public places for fear of being identified by video cameras attached to facial recognition software. In other words Bryan, it's really difficult to keep what used to be private.....private.

I wouldn't worry too much about the information on the site you listed. They don't really know all of your secrets, just the ones that you publish or allow to be published on your behalf. Some information is and always has been available by law such as property records, criminal records and other public records. When I entered my name at the site, they came up with hundreds of people with the same name. When I narrowed it down to give them my street name, they still didn't get most of the information right.

Most important for you Bryan, is to make sure that you have a good firewall in place on your computer. Use strong passwords and change them often. Avoid giving out your personal information over the internet, and relax. After all, Big Brother is Watching!!!

My Grandmother once told me when I was a boy so many years ago, that I should never put anything in writing that I wouldn't want published on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper. She was sure a smart ole gal.

Best Wishes

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by rmckean / November 12, 2010 11:44 AM PST

This site must be run by Democrrats. I checked what it had for myself and my Dad. We both moved 2 years ago so we both had 2 listings. Some of the basic information was correct but the zip codes for the old adresses was off by 2 digits missing the correct one by about 30 miles. The current addresses were closer they got the street name and subdivision correct but thats it. They missed getting my house correct by at least 2 blocks in the satelite view and I have no idea whos house is in the view for my Dads. Not even close. From what I saw Iwould not trust their information too far. On the other side I would keep watching, they might get it right some day and that is a little scarry. Just my thoughts.

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run by democrats?
by scarlet2007 / November 12, 2010 9:40 PM PST
In reply to: SPOKEO

Richard, come on... what a stupid misspelled reply... LOL

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Spy Spokeo?
by netsiu / November 12, 2010 11:45 AM PST

Hi Bryan.
I went to spokeo and entered a name (not mine) that I had quite a bit of info on because a credit rate site had our SS#s mixed and it pulled up all that I had so that confirmed their reach.
I then entered my first and last name and spokeo had nothing on me. I then entered my full name and spokeo said I didn't exist.
Without knowing the other guys social networking extent I can only jump to a conclusion that he does and leaves all privacy settings open. I only have Facebook and all settings available are set to friends only. That doesn't prevent them from coping my stuff and post it somewhere unsecure but that takes willfull malace on their part.

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Freaked out?
by ozark123 / November 12, 2010 11:50 AM PST

There is nothing on that site that isn't already public.

Keep in mind that if there is anything in the least bit personal on there you posted it on line or willingly gave the information to some on-line entity.

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Don't sweat it
by Sumner31 / November 12, 2010 12:04 PM PST

I checked mine out and found that all the information on me was public record and, in fact, the site had quite a few mistakes. While it had several pictures, none of them were me and it has me listed by my nickname and not my given name. So, for now at least, I'm not going to worry about it.

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