Spokeo: The Internet White Pages For Stalkers

Concerned about the security of your personal information on the internet? We all are, and thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, we’re more concerned than ever before. While having your Facebook profile show up in search engines for anyone talented enough to Google your name may be worrisome, it’s far from the worst case scenario. What if there was a website that pulled data from all of your social networking profiles, from Twitter to Flickr, and put it on display for anyone with curious eyes to see?

I hate to break it to you, but there is… introducing… Spokeo!

What Is A Spokeo?

Founded by a team of Stanford alumni in 2006, Spokeo didn’t start out pure evil. The original vision for Spokeo.com was to be a social networking aggregator, a la FriendFeed. This would allow their users to follow their friends, family, and colleagues across several social networking platforms. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, Spokeo’s alarming business model began to unveil shortly thereafter. Redesigning their site in 2008, Spokeo made it possible for users to import their e-mail contacts and create friend lists. At this point, it became apparent that Spokeo had more information on you than you may be comfortable with, including LinkedIn profiles, Picasa photos, and personal blog posts.

This year, Spokeo revamped their site once again, transforming into the all-knowing, data-hungry monster it is today.

How Does It Work?

Type in a name, any name, and if you’re feeling specific feel free to narrow your search by adding in a city and state. Spokeo will then pull data from its massive scraped database of personal information and provide you with every detail you did, or didn’t want to know about that person’s life. Now, if you’re skeptical, you may think that this isn’t as bad as it seems — who cares if someone can search information that people have knowingly and willingly made available across social networking websites, right? Sure, that’s a valid argument, but (and this is a big BUT) it doesn’t stop at social networking sites.

Spokeo collects information not only from online profiles, but also from government censuses, property listings, and business websites. Sure, this information is all publically accessible, but did you really fill out your census assuming that your answers would be easily searchable on the internet? The real concern here lies in the fact that all of this information is taken from different sources, stacked together, and readily displayed for the average (or not so average) person to find.

What Information Does Spokeo Provide?

So what information, exactly, does Spokeo have on you? You may not want to know the answer. Let’s start with a rundown of the “basic profile” information: name, address, phone number, age, gender, ethnicity, zodiac sign, relationship, children, occupation, education level, hobbies, and home ownership status.

Moving on, anyone who looks you up will be provided with a list of your personal interests and hobbies that include: which sports you play, what kind of books you read, your taste in music, personality traits, what type of automobiles you prefer, and what type of investments you research. Oh, and that’s just the beginning.

Searchers are then given a breakdown of your household and the people living in it. How many people are living there? What type of home do you live in? Do you have children? A fireplace? A swimming pool? How long have you been living there? What kind of neighborhood do you live in? Most importantly, how much is your home worth?

Paid Options For The Ultra-Creep

For a measly $4.95 per month, potential stalkers, convicted felons, and bitter ex-lovers can get a bit more information on you. That is, if they’re crazy enough to provide this data devouring beast with their credit card information. Fear not, though, logic isn’t among the strongest of traits in the obsessive.

So what information is disclosed when you pay off Spokeo? For starters, your “basic profile” will be expanded upon to disclose your religion, political affiliation, birthday, and spoken languages. Moving on to your “wealth” info, Spokeo provides anyone willing to pay 5 bucks with your estimated income, investments, and mortgage value. What a steal!

Next up, your average psychopath can get expanded information on your “lifestyle indicators.” I can only imagine what kind of info lies behind closed gates.

Last, but certainly not least, a paid-membership to Spokeo provides customers with detailed (“full,” as they describe it) household information. Considering the fact that the standard household info contains the number of people living in your home, whether or not your house has a fireplace, central air/heating, and/or a swimming pool, you can only imagine what information 5 dollars will get you. Blueprints of your home? A live webcam feed of your living room? Probably lots of cool stuff that any web-savvy burglar would like to know.

Oh, and let’s not forget that your basic household information indicates whether or not you have children. It can only be assumed that paying customers will be given a few more details on that aspect of your life. With all of the data Spokeo has racked up, I’d hope that they at least do a criminal background check before giving anyone with internet access and a credit card such information. My guess, however, is that they don’t.

The Accuracy Of Spokeo's Data

Now, you may be curious about the accuracy of the data and personal information that Spokeo has on file. Without question, the data available at this time is far from “perfect.” Keep in mind, though, Spokeo’s new, enhanced version just launched a couple of months back.

In any case, here are some general notes I’ve compiled on the accuracy of Spokeo’s information after a bit of research:

  • Address & Phone Number: The addresses and phone numbers they have listed are very accurate, not surprising as they are pulled from the phone book.
  • Photos: The photos given are not accurate in the slightest, I have no idea where these (seemingly random) photos are coming from.
  • Basic Profile: Info in the basic profile information is, for the most part, accurate. The exception here is estimated home value (no, my home is not worth over a million dollars, unfortunately).
  • Lifestyle & Interests: The lifestyle and interests section is somewhat accurate, I’d say around 50 percent of what they have listed on there is correct (yes, I own dogs; no, I don’t enjoy knitting).
  • Household: The names and ages of household members are accurate, as well as the home description and length of residence. The estimated home value, again, is off.
  • Neighborhood: Containing median income, home value, as well as age, ethnicity, and occupation distribution, the neighborhood information looks accurate in general. Not much to add here.

A Cause For Concern?

Spokeo’s large database of personal information is definitely of concern. While there are several notable inaccuracies in the info they provide at this point, it’s important to recognize that they are just getting started. Without a doubt, Spokeo will do everything in their power to make their information more precise, and more detailed.

Obviously, you don’t want random lurkers, criminals, or creeps of other varieties to have easy access to all of your personal info, but you may not want current or potential employers to have it either. Thanks to Spokeo, with as little information as your name, the outcome of your job interview may be predetermined before even stepping foot in the door. These are just some of the potential problems that a website like Spokeo can cause in your life, if you think about it, the list is nearly endless.

How do you feel about your personal information being neatly compiled and readily available on the internet?

Written by Timothy James Duffy

Timothy James Duffy is a full-time internet marketer and online content creator by day, and a Playstation 3 addict by night. Follow him on Twitter @timothyjduffy.
SEE MORE ARTICLES BY "Timothy James Duffy"

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Comments
  • http://InflectoVita.com Devon Schreiner

    That’s weird, I just tried it out on myself and a couple of people I know. It had some things right, probably just by guessing and then was completely off on some things. I’m not quite 80 years old yet….

  • http://digitalclarity.com Jeff

    The entire site reminds me of cold reading in that rather than admit what they do not know (which seems like just about everything that isn’t obvious), they take stereotypical guesses based on probability.

  • Danielle

    I tried it on myself and the fact that it has pieces of my information that I KNOW I’ve never allowed onto the internet scares me! Any known ways to “opt out” of this, like the google phone number debacle?

    • Angela

      Danielle,
      If you click the very tiny “Privacy” link at the bottom right corner of your Spokeo search listing, you can request to have it removed. I did this a while ago for both me and my husband and to my knowledge the listings have not reappeared. I’m not sure if that also removes it from their paid services, though…

      • rob

        Anglea, I would be careful with that because even though Spokeo removes the content, the content is still being shared but the source of the material.So it would be better to go to the actual source of the content and remove it there first before the opt out to prevent future sites form posting it(ie. your email address settings)

  • Cody

    They can’t be using census data. Anything recorded by the census is private information and only gets released to the public after 72 years. So they might be using the statistics from the census for your area but not the personal information.

  • ahmad ul

    well very weird
    for the time being thank god it’s for the us.no international version.
    i am a n asian and my name doesn’t come out.
    so only the US market.??bold marketing strategy

  • net nigger

    How did they know that I like to knock on doors and run away?

  • lady gaga

    how on earth did they get those pics of me ???????????????????????

  • Justin

    I wouldn’t be too worried, about this site at least (I’ve seen much better). It knew virtually nothing about anyone I searched including myself. It didn’t even have my birthday right. I used Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, and my real name and address is attached to sever Whois records for websites I own attached to LLCs and C-Corporations I’m on the board of (all of which are public record).

    Even when I searched for “Barack Obama” it gave me nothing for any DC addresses and the closest it came was from a Chicago address which yielded:

    Barack H Obama
    S Greenwood Ave
    Chicago, Illinois 60615
    Household: Michelle Obama
    Age: mid 40’s
    Gender: Male
    Ethnicity: African-American
    Zodiac: Leo
    Relationship: Married
    Children: No
    Occupation: Professional/Technical
    Education: Graduate Degree
    Hobbies: unknown
    Home Owner: No
    Residence: Single Family House
    Length of Residence: 2 years
    Est. Home Value: $1M+
    Neighborhood: Middle Class
    Is not interested in politics <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< HAHAHAHA
    Donates to causes
    Enjoys shopping

    If that's the best they can do on the President, I think we're safe from Spokeo.

  • annie

    I tried to get myself removed from this site, but the “program” to do that didn’t work.. Does anyone else know how to get removed? This is way too creepy. Pedos playground indeed!!

  • James

    Sounds like a way to build a Cylon avatar like they did on the Sci-Fy TV show Caprica.

    This has happened before and all of this will happen again…

  • http://Digg Sage

    We have an unlisted number, yet still showed up on there. It’s creepy.

  • Mel

    http://www.spokeo.com/privacy

    Copy and paste the URL to your listing, provide an email and you can get yourself removed.

  • todd

    There is not a single piece of correct information on my Spokeo listing. This concerns me as much as proper information. I will keep a close eye on this in contemplation of a libel lawsuit. While they may claim they are not the source of the information, they are under an obligation to make reasonable inquiries into the accuracy of the info provided. To the extent any harm arises from their clearly wrong info on me, I should have a good case. A simple google search will tell Spokeo that I am a married lawyer born in late April. All those were wrong on my Spokeo listing. This site is a worthless invitation for a lawsuit.

  • http://technecatscratchings.wordpress.com/ kvweber

    I don’t appear to exist. I found my parents, under whom I’m still a dependent, but none of their family information includes me. I’m not sure whether to be annoyed or relieved.

  • http://www.gilsmethod.com gjperera

    You can find out more about Spokeo and how to remove your profile – http://www.gilsmethod.com/concerned-about-your-privacy-delete-your-profile-from-spokeo

  • http://alyssa-davis.com Alyda

    I found spokeo in february, I used it to make sure an email address seemed legit since i was looking for a rideshare to a ski resort. Being female, I am somewhat cautious, so I checked this guy out for free on Spokeo. he passed my “not a spammer” test and i ended up feeling safer on the ride to the resort.

    All I really wanted to say is, while its very disturbing how much info i can find on people who don’t think that type of information is publicly available, the photos are in fact accurate, IF the person has a flickr or picasa account. If they don’t, it does display random, irrelevant photos. But when i searched for myself, my actual flickr photos came up. Luckily for me, i didn’t find any surprise info about myself, but the “household income” did surprise me as part of result information (when i searched for someone else, another rideshare where i never met the person).

    However, I have noticed that (at least on the free account) the Location is more likely to return your actual geo-location than that of the person you are searching. I thought this was a glitch, off by minor variances, until I tried it by logging in from different places in LA, and each time, the Location would be more relevant to where I was than the person I was searching for (using my friends & myself as test data, knowing where they where located)

  • I. C. Weiner

    You say: “the phone numbers they have listed are very accurate, not surprising as they are pulled from the phone book.”
    My private unlisted phone number was correctly listed. I never give that out. I am not on any social networking sites. This annoys the hell out of me.

  • Cherry Carver

    The phone number Spokeo listed for me is a mobile number. This is news to me, as I don’t have a cell phone, but I have my suspicions who gave out this information. I plan to call this number and scare the shit out of the person who answers (it’s 4:00 AM local time).

  • me

    the info they had on me was so wrong, but it is scary to think someone can pay a small price to obtain more WRONG info since it could make you look bad.

  • noneya

    Really scary part is they have someone who stayed with me for free listed as the head of the household. He was a relative and supposedly wasn’t employed at the time. They also had us listed, as home owners, I paid rent. Implied consent seems to work for anything now days. A friend can pay your cell phone bill for you, even if you give them the cash yourself to stop and pay it, and can then have spyware loaded to your phone based on the idea that they are on your account because they paid the cell bill. You can now be listed on a family plan with the implied consent idea. They now have access to your cell phone calls and can give this information to anyone they please. PI’s use this to gain information on someone they are stalking.

  • http://truxtertech.com/news/2010/12/28/a-stalking-website/ TruXter

    get the link to your name, go to the contact page and send them that link and ask to be removed from spokeo.
    The more the people we have taking our self off there, the less the people have to use stalk with.

  • priya

    Is it possible to find out the different existing email addresses of the same person

  • http://twitter.com/14609Gamgee Samwise Gamgee

    I looked up several people i know, just to test it. the info is scary, but, for example one person i know had her age totaly off, her address a few years wrong  and her mom listed as her sister, another person I know dose not have thier siblings listed and their house as too expensive for what it is. and i found a dead person  listed as if they were still here.

  • dian corye

    Why does it have their married but it doesn’t say who to…its crazy bc I’ve been with this person for 7 years have a two yr old together I’m in shock and hurt so just wondering if the info is available! Thnx for ur help! :(

  • david howard

    He be walks and walks by my house