Is Spokeo a Threat to Internet Privacy?


Information-sharing website Spokeo has recently come under fire for allegedly providing detailed personal information about individuals to anyone who types in their name. According to this FoxNews article, Spokeo “purports to know your income, religion, spouse’s name, credit status and the number of people in your household. It even offers a satellite shot of your house, complete with an estimated value.” Does this sound like the type of information you’re okay with sharing publicly?

I’m not okay with it. So I went to Spokeo to see which of my personal details were accessible.

  • A search on my first and last name revealed six profiles that included addresses. Four of the profiles were not me. One profile listed my former residence and another listed my current residence. When I clicked on the profile with my current address, a pop-up appeared with a menu of personal data options. For a fee, I could gain access to a “full report.”
  • I signed up for a 3-month account at $4.95 per month and gained access to the following details about me:
    • Basic information: ethnicity, age, gender
    • Complete home address with street and satellite views
    • The number of occupants in my home (inaccurate)
    • An average demographic profile of my neighborhood
  • A search of my personal email address resulted in nothing, but my business email address revealed:
    • Basic employer information
    • Blog articles I’ve authored
    • Social networks I belong to
    • Several photos (nothing embarrassing)
  • A search of my primary phone number revealed:
    • My median income

If available (not in my case!), Spokeo also provides the following::

  • Economic and wealth levels
  • Relationship status
  • Home value
  • Religion

I did not see a field for credit scores, as mentioned in the FoxNews article.

All in all, aside from the availability of my home address and estimated income, the information on me wasn’t too plentiful. No cause for alarm here.

While the existence of sites like Spokeo are annoying — even disturbing — they are not operating illegally, according to this TechCrunch article.

So meanwhile, how can  you maximize your online privacy?

1) Remove your information from Spokeo by clicking here.

Boingo community member Karen Lopez, who works in information technology,advises that you should use a “throwaway” email address should you submit a request to have your data removed.

2) Subscribe to an identity protection service such as Experian or Equifax.

Have you  had a negative experience with personal data sites like Spokeo? Please share your story.

About Melody Demel

Melody is Senior Manager, PR for Boingo Wireless, where she is responsible for media relations, brand building and thought leadership initiatives. Melody is a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and retired NCAA DI college field hockey player.
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2 Responses to Is Spokeo a Threat to Internet Privacy?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention » Blog Archive » Is Spokeo a Threat to Internet Privacy? -- Topsy.com

  2. MalechiTech says:

    “Internet Privacy” is an oxymoron. We have to change how we think about our info. Use the openness instead of fear it, or unplug. Sad but true.