First there was Do Not Track and its follow-up, then the Online Shopper’s Confidence Act, and yet we’re still seeing our information pop up all over the internet. Want to know something about somebody? It only takes a small fee paid for by a credit card and you’ll get all the info on someone that a program has scoured the internet for. It’s kind of scary that internet stalking has been made that easy, isn’t? And Spokeo finally made a blip on our radar, so we thought we’d explore it a bit.

So, what is Spokeo? It certainly looks innocuous enough. It’s a search engine, but a people search engine. Spokeo is also a free people search…right up until you have to pay. And while you could search for bits and pieces of somebody over a period of time, Spokeo does it for you and puts it all into one comprehensive report. How does it do this? By collecting data about you that scattered all over the internet, like phone directories, censuses, business sites and listings, surveys, any mailing lists you’ve joined and, of course, any social networks you happen to be a part of—and haven’t tweaked your privacy settings with yet.

All you have to do is type the person’s name in on the homepage and Spokeo will give you a sample of what it finds. If you want the rest, it’ll cost you. Or, if you don’t happen to know the person’s name, but you have an e-mail address, phone number or user name, they can search for information about those items, too. Want to know things about your friends? Spokeo, with your permission, of course, will access your e-mail account, see your list of friends and perform searches on them.

Yes, it really is internet stalking made easy and that kind of bothers me.

Fortunately, there is a kind of opt out that you can perform on the site. If you happen to type your name in, go through the results and narrow it down to the actual “you,” here’s what you do:

  1. Copy the URL at the top of the page
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Privacy.”
  3. Paste the URL where it says “URL.”
  4. Type in your e-mail address (there’s an explanation provided as to why it’s asking you for this, which makes sense since you don’t want somebody doing this for you if you’d rather be found)
  5. Type in the code you see to the right (which verifies you may possibly be a human being)
  6. Click on “Remove Listing.”

And your listing shall be removed. Keep in mind, though, that the sources this information was culled from will still be there and still be available, but Spokeo won’t be compiling it on you anymore.

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