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Spokeo Shows Your Home with Only a Name?

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True. Unless you have chosen to Opt Out (see below), a picture of your home is only one search away on Spokeo.com, even if I don’t have your address.

Check it out for yourself at www.spokeo.com. On most profiles, if Spokeo has your current address, they also have a picture of your home. It is the same as Google Street View, almost. The difference is that on Google Street View or Google Maps, you can’t easily look up someone’s address based on their name and find the corresponding picture of their home.

In other words, Spokeo aggregates your personal data in a more sophisticated way, ultimately giving users the ability to search on your name and peel back layers of your personal information. This has caused a recent web buzz on the subject and is pushing people to go on their site to remove information you don’t want to share with the world. A few months ago I posted a video about removing your information from Spokeo. Here are the steps.

  1. Visit www.Spokeo.com.
  2. Type in your name and click on the record that belongs to you (if it exists).
  3. Copy the URL in your web browser that points specifically to your record (you should see your name in the URL, something like this: http://www.spokeo.com/search?q=Smith%20Sample#Sample:1219812367)
  4. Go to the bottom right corner of Spokeo’s page and click on the link called Privacy (it’s in small, faded text). Alternatively, visit www.Spokeo.com/privacy.
  5. On this page, paste in the link you copied from your personal page and enter your email address (for verification purposes, supposedly) and the security code listed. This is a case where I would use a second email account (your designated junk-email account), not your main email to avoid the build up of possible spam emails that follow. It will then send you an email confirmation where you must click the URL to confirm removal.
  6. Voila! You’re information will, for the time being, no longer be included in their look up services.

Of course, this does not get rid of the original sources of data (they buy the information from your local White Pages, Government listings, probably from Google Street View), but it does make it considerably harder to aggregate all of this data in one place. Just as a word of caution – I opted out of their data base about 3 months ago when we posted the above video and now I’m back in the database. So, I am opting out again and monitoring very closely if they add me back in, at which point I will take the story to a major news organization and we will hold them accountable.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him regarding speaking opportunities directly on 800.258.8076.

Google Spying Cost Them $1

Some months ago, [intlink id=”2349″ type=”post”]Google got caught sniffing[/intlink] the wireless connection in our homes as they photographed our houses to post on Google Street View. Although the case may be newsworthy, the settlement is only peanuts.  Google has been found guilty of trespassing on Aaron and Christine Boring’s home and will have to pay them the astounding amount of $1 for punitive damages. The search engine giant admitted that they trespassed when they took a picture of the plaintiffs house for Google Street View and ended up settling the case. The couple were hoping to make a point, but also realized that they financially can’t take on the huge corporation.

The Street View cars have found controversy not only because they drive around and take pictures of homes to post to the Internet, but they were also collecting sensitive information from WiFi connections while doing so. Google admitted that it had in fact accidentally collected private details, and stated they deleted all the private information gathered. Although we are left helpless with that data breach, we DO have the option to remove our homes from Street View.  Recently I outlined how you can do this by following a few simple steps to remove yourself from Google Street View.

This case may not change the way Google operates, but it does keep bringing to light privacy issues that the company is facing. These privacy issues directly affect you and me and hopefully one day we will not be quite so helpless in protecting our identity from Google and other Internet gorillas.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010), a professional Financial Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.

Google Maps Street View: Removing Your House

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According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, if you are looking for more privacy, then you should move.

His callous remark came during a discussion on Google Maps Street View cars, which were found to be illegally collecting e-mails, passwords and surfing habits while photographing your neighborhood. Appearing on CNN’s Parker Spitzer a week ago, Schmidt made a bold statement that was eventually edited out of the broadcast. He said that said individuals who did not want the Street View cars to snap photos of their homes should “just move.” Schmidt then told The Hollywood Reporter, “As you can see from the unedited interview, my comments were made during a fairly long back and forth on privacy. I clearly misspoke. If you are worried about Street View and want your house removed please contact Google and we will remove it.” You can have your house removed from Google Maps Street View. Here’s how (see video):

  1. Go to www.google.com/maps
  2. Locate your house by typing its address into the search box and pressing Enter.
  3. Click on the small picture of your house that says Street View.
  4. Adjust Google Maps Street View by clicking the left and right arrows on the Street View image until you see your house.
  5. Click the Report a Problem link at the bottom-right corner of the Street View image.
  6.  It will take you to a page to Report Inappropriate Street View.  Here you can ask to have any number of things blurred, including the picture of your house.
  7.  You will need to provide your email address and submit a CAPTCHA.

An investigation into Google’s accidental practice of collecting identity information has been opened in France, Germany,  Spain, as well as in the U.S. Google claims that it will delete the sensitive information as soon as possible, but in the meantime, victims remain helpless. John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.