Spooky Spokeo…how much does it know?


Spokeo is a “Personal Information Site” that uses deep web crawlers to find information publicly available on the web to build a profile of you, yes you. And me, and anyone else that has ever signed up for anything on the web.
I’d never heard of it but started seeing it in search results over the last few weeks. We have some major changes happening at work so I was googling a few names (as you do) to see what linkedin had to say about them. I kept seeing these “Spokeo” results so clicked in to have a look.

“Not your Grandma’s phone book”

Spokeo is a people search engine that aggregates white-pages listings and public records. Luckily for us non-Americans, the name search is limited to US residents. You can search on an email address for non-US residents which will tell you a bit more, but then it wants to charge you for the privilege. The urban legend website lists quite a few similar sites, the most comprehensive (for free) seeming to be pipl. Urban legend also mentions concerns about so-called invasions of privacy – but from what I can see (and read), all the information available is public anyway.

How much does it know?

I come from a large Irish Catholic family so put the lot into pipl to see what came out. I put both names and primary email addresses.

Mum – nothing even though she has a gmail address.
Dad – ditto
Sis 1 – lives in the US so they had her age, work address and Spokeo even had a google map of her house (this site returned very little for free for anyone else), but then again her address is available in the white pages.
Sis 2 – not a lot, only found one social network profile but she uses a wide variety of email addresses and online profiles, and lives in Dublin
Sis 3 – found a load of her public profiles including tweets and facebook pages – she runs an online wine business in Shenzhen, China (www.crushedgrapes.cn) so would be delighted I’m sure.
Bro – again, lots of tweets and public profiles – but again, he runs a live music service (www.45sound.com).
Me – pipl returned my age from my bebo profile (I’d forgotten I was on that site) which was a bit disturbing as I try to keep that private, not that I’m embarrassed of course, merely for security purposes.. Anyway, I went to the effort of getting my bebo password reset only to find that I can’t remove the year of birth – how annoying! Apart from that, again I wasn’t too concerned by what it found.

So why are people freaking out?

From what I can see, two reasons – firstly, Spokeo (and pipl etc.) gathers all the data it can find about you on the web, so if you use the same email address and your real name for all your online memberships, it will probably build quite a comprehensive picture of you which could be a bit confronting. If you don’t, it won’t. It could be used by someone stalking you, but then again, they could find all that info about you anyway if they looked hard enough.

Secondly – there are rumours out there that if you go onto the Spokeo website it downloads cookies that start tracking your movements and therefore gather more data about you. Now, I don’t really believe that, but since it wouldn’t kill me to delete all my cookies for the last hour, I’m going to do it anyway 🙂

So if you’re curious have a look at the sites below:

http://www.spokeo.com
http://pipl.com

Did they have much info about you? Anything that freaked you out? Should I be more concerned? Let me know!

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TwoLittleDotes@gmail.com
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Author: Sue @ Oysterfruit

Owner at Oysterfruit.com.au.

14 thoughts on “Spooky Spokeo…how much does it know?”

  1. Ohh you know I’ve googled my name and alot of comments on blogs come up!! Makes me think of changing it… thanks for the very important info!!!!!

  2. Oh wow! I had no idea. Though I am also not overly surprised either. Every now and then I start to get a little paranoid about such things but then I realise I am not going to stop having an online presence so best I just do it as safely as possible.

    Fairy wishes and butterfly kisses #teamIBOT

  3. I can agree with Rach – i think it is SO important to have boundaries to save yourself from a lot of misery. Verbally saying thoughts is one thing, putting them in writing is another!!

  4. Hi Rachel and Lyndal – thanks for commenting! It’s one of the things I’m going to try to make clear to my kids – they do not want a prospective employer finding their teenage tweets 🙂

  5. Urrgh! Things like this make my brain hurt. I suppose it is remembering that anything you put on your computer, you have to be willing for you’re nanna to read it.

  6. Oh I don’t think I will look cause that creeps me out.

    Interestingly, I thought I had my Facebook profile set to private, but someone who is not my friend found out heaps about me from there the other day. I need to have a look at my settings. With my blog, so much of my life is on the line anyway, it can be scary.

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