Blogging about the Joneses

A Web site that concerns privacy advocates because it makes it ultra easy for anyone to find anyone else's address and phone number is about to get even more controversial. ZabaSearch is a search engine for personal information, including current and past addresses, phone numbers and birthdates.

In his San Francisco Chronicle column on Friday, David Lazarus reports that the company is planning to introduce a feature, ZabaBlog, that will allow people to write and post blogs about other individuals.

Reaction from a privacy advocate was, not surprisingly, negative. "It's outrageous," Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told Lazarus, adding that it is irresponsible for a search service to "move into the area of what could be unsubstantiated gossip." Given that private individuals have stronger rights to privacy under libel law than public figures, the move could be a risky one for ZabaSearch.

Interestingly, the chairman of ZabaSearch himself, Nicholas Matsorkis, is no stranger to gossip and intrigue, having a connection to the 1997 mass suicide of nearly 40 members of the Heaven's Gate cult in Southern California. Several employees of a former company he owned were cult members and he had driven one of them to the house where the bodies were found, Lazarus wrote.

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