Spokeo, The Big Brother Of Social Networking

Spokeo is a new kind of profile aggregator. It gathers information from social networking sites, but instead of aggregating info from your various profiles, like MySpace, Last.fm or Ma.gnolia, it scoops up info on all of your contacts from a wide variety of sites.

The people at Spokeo call their service a friend tracker. Here’s how it works: You provide it with your AOL, Gmail, HotMail or Yahoo Mail address and password. In mere minutes, Spokeo finds recent updates and items from the people on your contact list on all kinds of social networking sites.

What it does

For the reviews I write here at Pandia, I have to get accounts on numerous services. I also have a lot of online friends around the world and I like to keep in touch with them easily through social networking sites.

But it was a real eye opener when I saw all the content that Spokeo came up with on my friends and contacts based based on nothing but my Gmail address.

Here are Flixter movie ratings, Pandora play lists and Last.fm favorites, Flickr and Picasa photos, twittr posts, Vox blog entries (along with uploaded videos, images etc), Digg and Stumbleupon reviews, LinkedIn information, MySpace posts, Slide.com uploads, Amazon.com wish list items and more.

Privacy alert

In the Spokeo blog, you can read that the name Spokeo refers the hub-and-spokes nature of the site. Well, it’s certainly a hub, but in my opinion, a better name would be Spookey.

Browsing all the info Spokeo makes available to me feels a lot like spying on my friends. And they don’t even know I’m keeping track of them.

Spokeo has a page on privacy, where they write that “Spokeo finds only publicly available information by default. In other words, everything on Spokeo could have been seen by you and others all these times.”

Be this as it may: Separately, these information nuggets are innocent enough, but together they paint a picture of a person that is more detailed than I personally appreciate. It must be a gold mine for private investigators, stalkers and other unsavory people.

What’s more, many of the people that Spokeo helps me gather intel on are not my friends. They are people who I have had an email correspondence with at one time. They never intended to be my friend or to give me the key to access huge amounts of coordinated personal information.

Making some networking changes

Spokeo can be a useful way for people to determine how much of their dirty laundry is being aired. I am careful with what information I make available. Still, after seeing it all in one place, I have taken steps to delete some photos from Flickr. From now on I will also be using an anonymous email address when I’m setting up accounts to test and review new social networking services.

Warning: We don’t recommend that you provide third party services like Spokeo with the password to your online email account.

Note: This is a text only archived version of article " Spokeo, the Big Brother of social networking", we made it available mainly because its still among most sought content from old site.