Jan 032011
 

Back in March 2010, this blog started including occasional news stories on Spokeo.com, a site that aggregates personal information from publicly available sources and makes it available to anyone and everyone online. How much information you can obtain on someone depends whether you use their free service or their “premium” service. As the site itself notes, not all of the information in an individual’s profile may be correct as the site merely aggregates what are in other databases or reports.

Since I first became aware of Spokeo.com,  PogoWasRight.org’s coverage has included a complaint CDT filed against Spokeo with the FTC in June, Spokeo’s response to the complaint, and a lawsuit that an individual filed against them in July. I was therefore somewhat surprised to see people talking about Spokeo on Twitter as if it was something new. It seems that it’s new-found attention was due to a Boing Boing post about it.

Tamara McRill also picked up on the new-found concern and seems to think it’s a bit overblown, noting that users can remove their profile from Spokeo by following directions linked from the “privacy” link on the site’s home page.

Knowing that I had already removed my family’s profiles from Spokeo in March 2010, I idly checked the site over the weekend- only to discover that all of the profiles I had removed were back.  Disturbed that removing the profiles didn’t  seem to really remove them permanently, I’ve sent an inquiry to Spokeo asking about what their privacy policy really means if people are led to believe that listings are removed, only to have them re-appear at some point in the future when the individual might not even know to check.

I’ve yet to hear back from Spokeo, but will file an FTC complaint if I don’t get a satisfactory answer on this. It’s bad enough that they make you wait a week or so to remove listings if you try to remove more then three listings in one day, but to lead people to believe that they’ve opted out and then to provide their data again is… unacceptable.

[Entry corrected to read March 2010, not March 2009]

Updated Jan.  12, 2011: Spokeo did not respond to my complaint that deleted profiles had reappeared. Once again, it took me more than  a week to remove all family profiles.  I have filed a complaint today with the FTC about deceptive practices under Title 5.  As a matter of privacy, I should be able to delete a profile from a site and know that it will stay deleted.

  2 Responses to “When everything old is new again: Spokeo.com triggers concerns (updated)”

  1. Same thing happened to me !

    I know I removed ALL my information a year ago. I just went back on and there I was.

    Shaun Dakin – @PrivacyCamp

    • It is looking more and more like I will file a complaint with the FTC about this. If they tell you your profile’s removed, then dammit, it should stay removed.

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