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Concerns About Spokeo.com

 In previous Security tips and also during particular Cyber Security Awareness Month presentations, we have addressed the fact that while  scraps of information about us as individuals may not seem significant, it is when many of those scraps are combined in one location, that we should be concerned about our privacy.

A perfect example of this has been brought to the university’s attention this week. The website Spokeo.com advertises itself as ‘not your grandma’s phonebook’ because the information that is displayed here when entering a person’s name consists of aggregated information collected from different public sources about that individual by Spokeo. The worrisome issue here is that they get the information from both on-line and off-line sources and that all of the data together, can add up to quite a bit of material that you many not want to see out there.

What can be done about it?  Before becoming alarmed, an important question to ask is how this information was collected! First, please remember that much of this information is already a matter of public record and what’s more, it always will be. Additionally, with Google Earth, the precise location of your home is available as well both in map and satellite image. Essentially this means that to remove yourself from the Spokeo site completely, you would have to remove yourself from each and every source they gain the information from. It is almost impossible.

However, we do have some measure of control by being responsible for our own privacy as a computer user. Because if Spokeo.com was able to gather very personal information about you such as photographs, hobbies, etc., Spokeo  was able to collect this information because your personal profile on social networking sites such as Facebook was not set to private to begin with!

To remove yourself from Spokeo.com here are the steps:

  1. http://www.spokeo.com/
  2. Search your own name (add city/state if need be) – or if the search returns you among a list of people with the same name, find your name with the correct address and click on it. Check out the information they have listed for you (keeping in mind that if you wish to see everything, you will have to create an account and pay a fee). Please note that you can also do searches for your misc. email addresses as each email address may result in information displayed about you.
  3. Copy the entire URL from your information page.
  4. Go to Remove from spokeo.com link.
  5. Paste the URL you’ve copied from your information page into the space marked URL and enter a valid email address, and complete the ‘captcha code’ verification.    *Note that by giving them very active email addresses, you give them more information about yourself We would recommend that you create a new free email address with Yahoo or Google (one that you will never use again or that you use only for these sorts of purpose) to get yourself removed!!!   
  6. You will receive an email to the email address you’ve used for the removal, with information on how to complete the process.
  7. Go back to Spokeo.com to do a search on yourself again, to make sure the information is removed.
  8. In the case you don’t get the email as described in step#6, contact their customer service department. Their address is 1010 E. Union Street, Los Angeles CA. You can also file a complaint with the Attorney General in California. 
Compute wisely!