Spokeo.com: Journalists’ research dream or privacy concern?

By JAMIE STEPHENS

Could Spokeo.com be the new era of investigative reporting? While some say Spokeo is a hazardous and invasive new website that compromises privacy rules for citizens all over the nation, others (especially news reporters) may argue that Spokeo is the new, free public records “go-to” source of our era.

Released in March 2010, located in Pasadena, Calif., Spokeo.com describes its website as a user-friendly, people-oriented search engine of free white pages, which locates phone numbers, addresses, e-mails and personal photos.

Basically, “any information considered public on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, Netflix, Flickr, or any other network is aggregated using the Spokeo.com search engine (http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/).”

Its motto consists of “Find people by name, e-mail, address, and phone for free.”  No longer do reporters, law enforcement, or common citizens have to pay for expensive public record’s sites to find critical, background information on an individual, because according to Spokeo, their site does all the work for you.

“Though Spokeo’s innovative technology has received numerous accolades and reviews from Newsweek, WSJ, PCWorld, and more and though millions of people have already used Spokeo to connect with their family, friends and business contacts (http://victorcaballero.com/spokeo-com/),” Spokeo.com isn’t favored by all. In fact, the first time I had heard of Spokeo was through a forwarded message on Facebook warning me to remove my information from Spokeo at once because of privacy concerns of the public. Once I scanned the site, I realized details like my age, race, income, housing, relatives, gender and social networks were all accessible to any Joe or Jane who was interested in acquiring my personal information.

Spokeo is quite aware of the concerns of the public about the privacy of their information and allow users the option to block their personal information from the site, seen in this statement: “While our search results shows only publicly-accessible information gathered from hundreds of public sources, such as phone books, marketing surveys, business sites and more, we understand that you are concerned.”

With that being said though, Spokeo may be a nuisance to some of the public. Professional journalists, investigators, law enforcement officers and even some students may look at this new resource site as a goldmine for private information of potential subjects, suspects and prospects for stories, cases, etc.

So, whether you feel Spokeo.com is a scam or a genius plan, you have to admit through the innovation and cultivation of technology, newsgathering and the world wide web, some creations we simply have to learn to experiment with and use to our advantage.

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