Google Maps is intrusive. But all it gets is pictures of your house. Social networking is intrusive. But people only get to see the information you provide.
What if someone was able to get all of your information without you knowing?
Introducing Spokeo. Now, this site has technically been around since 2006, but it’s been getting more and more attention in the past few months. Spokeo is a phonebook database that lets you locate anyone in the country. It provides you with not only their name and address, but their telephone number and all sorts of random personal information. Something as trivial as “Likes to ride bikes” could show up.
Of course, no evil this big would exist without some sort of cash incentive, and so you don’t get access to all the information on one particular individual… for free. You can get a 1-year membership for $2.95 a month. And for that low, low price, you get to look at someone’s credit estimate, wealth level, and can directly contact them should their e-mail address be available.
To be fair, Spokeo gives you the option of redacting your information. All they need is the URL of the page with your info and an e-mail address to confirm and… problem solved! Your location is blocked and all you had to do in return was connect your location to your e-mail account! There’s no way that could ever be turned on you!
What I want to know is how in the world Spokeo gets access to this information. The simplest explanation is that they do Google searches, check for similar usernames across multiple websites, and glean information from people’s social networks and the yellow pages. The alternative is that this is a group of professional spies or hackers or some other third thing who know that just acting like Big Brother isn’t good enough, but giving the consumer power to be Big Brother with the help of a browser and a credit card is genius.
Think about it. It’s one thing to be lorded over by some Orwellian corporation, worried that the people in charge are tracking your every move, but just imagine how much worse it would be if you were given that same opportunity to spy. It’s like high school popularity: you resent it when it’s someone else, but embrace it when it comes your way.
Spokeo seems to not understand the dangers of this technology. They might excuse themselves with “But people have the option of removing their information.” Well, what about those who aren’t plugged in? What about the people who have never heard of this site in the first place? If you haven’t heard of Spokeo, you’re never going to find out your personal information is on there, are you?
The true genius of social networking and sites like Spokeo is that no one at the top needs to do anything or read anyone’s accounts. All they have to do is watch the little people spying on each other, and things like Facebook walkouts aren’t going to change the status quo a damn bit.
You want privacy? Become a hermit and live in the mountains. We sacrificed privacy the minute the internet was invented. You buy a car GPS, you’re sacrificing your privacy. You blab about your location on FourSquare, you’re sacrificing your privacy.
So from now on, people in this country have no right to complain about government monitoring, because if you want to know who’s guilty of destroying private life, all you need do is look in the mirror.