August 02, 2007
Time on People Search
Check out Time Magazine on people search today. They use the phrase, 'ways to snoop online.' In some cases, it can feel that way. For example with pipl, I discovered private information about the average Joe and Betty that I'm sure they don't know is out there -- and more information than you'd comfortably want to know -- unless there was an ill intent or more.
To lump all of them together in one basket didn't seem accurate or fair but it does raise general online privacy concerns which is valid. Client Spock merely indexes information that is already publicly out there about a person, data they have chosen to add, a far cry from a search engine that brings back your age, address, records on a family will or piece of property you own, potential criminal record, phone number and email.
In other words, if you have openly published your phone number or email on MySpace, flickr, your corporate website or a social network, Spock simply aggregates all of that information in one central location.
YOU, the user choose whether you want to share personal information within Spock through your settings, i.e., I can only see, friends can only see, everyone can see. There is also a private section where you can store useful data on people you mark as a 'favorite,' such as birthdays, children's names or email addresses.
The people search engines listed have different goals and meet different needs. Spock aims to index everyone - average people, famous people and even deceased, i.e., Mozart or your grandfather if you choose to add information about him, a cool and easy way to have your heritage recorded on the web. ZoomInfo has another goal and purpose. Like LinkedIn, it is largely focused on business profiles using natural language processing.
The article points out that there are inaccuracies in some of the search results, but ya know, these search engines are fairly new and accuracy and the amount of data will only improve over time. Look at Google and Wikipedia, both of which present examples of inaccurate or useless search results, yet they remain incredibly productive online tools.
So too will the new vertical market search tools. Online robots will get better and better as the technology improves and more data is available. Additionally, the community -- in more cases than not -- will add value to the data that is out there.
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You know, as a journalist I know what this attitude at Time is all about. If it didn't come from the journalist it came from their editor. When new communications technologies pop up people often look for the glass half empty story or how is this invading our privacy. The same exact thing happened with the Google Street View technology. First there was this explosion of privacy concerns. And whenever anyone interviewed me about it they asked about the privacy issues not about how darn cool this new tool was. That's actually a very different case because nobody ever told me when the Google video van was going to drive by. I knew very well when my content was going to appear on Spock because I was the one who posted it on MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Posted by: David Spark | Aug 3, 2007 1:17:24 PM
David - you get it, that's why you know the difference. I do find that in some cases, people don't always have the time to dig in deep enough before they go to print and next thing, every service in a category is lumped in together.
No doubt there are privacy issues with anything and everything you post on the web, but with Spock, as you pointed out, it pulls from data you have added into your preferred social network or blog. Some of the other services give out your address, phone, email and other things you may not want out there.
Thanks for speaking out.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Aug 3, 2007 10:22:19 PM
Just want to clarify that I had plenty of time to "dig in deep" on this story. I understand quite well how Spock works, and I believe its searches on ordinary people prey on the ignorance of both minors and unsuspecting adults. And that's unethical.
Posted by: Anita Hamilton | Aug 5, 2007 7:07:05 PM
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