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Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting Really Horrified about the Personal Information that's on the Internet

The personal branding industry became prominent in 1997 with a Tom Peters article and now yields 7.9 million hits on a Monday night search by the Google. The main contribution of the personal branding industry seems to be fairly obvious guidelines on what you should share online. For example, putting up photos where you are scantily clad in a compromising position with a goat while drinking alcohol is apparently not good for your personal brand.

What would really actually be helpful and impressive from the personal branding industry would be specific guidelines for those of who just can't resist showering the internet with nudity, alcohol and barnyard animals. For example, is a picture with a knowing smirk, cocktail dress, martini, and a sheep personal brand neutral? What if the martini is replaced with a Pabst Blue Ribbon and there is a little bit of tongue emerging from the smirk? Is that bad for a personal brand or just a little racy? For those with these low levels of impulse control, knowing line and when have we passed it would be very useful.

These are the types of assignments that those who work in personal branding should have to wrestle with. No naked pictures online is the low hanging fruit. Give me the exact square inches of skin that can be shown to not hurt someone's personal brand and that is someone who has earned their fee.

The information that we can voluntarily share on the internet pales in comparison to the latest business models for online aggregators of personal information. The previous paragraphs were on my to do list as part of making fun of the personal branding industry. The meat of this post is about sites that that make you wish that untagging that awkward middle school picture was all that you had to worry about.

Spokeo is the New York Yankees of Privacy Violating free sites. It is frightening in both the information that it portrays (address and birthday) and its inaccuracies (attempts income, profession, and home value with no success whatsoever). A street level google map of your address just adds to the creepiness. It has all the information that someone would need to target you for marketing or a home invasion. The only good thing about the site is that it is easy to get your information removed.

Zabasearch is similar to Spokeo but more of a white pages and doesn't attempt to peddle financial information. When I attempted to find myself and a few others, it seemed to have this default setting of LAST NAME Hole or in my case it would be Hedge Hole. I don't know if the site was really calling me an A-hole, it was a glitch, or Hole is a really common last name. Overall, it seemed too inaccurate with basic information to be really harmful. To opt out of zabasearch, you have to fax them a request along with a proof of identity.

Pipl is an aggregating site that pulls in information from Spokeo, Zabbasearch, and Google in attempts to create an unauthorized profile. They are kind of the open market with some quality goods and some snake oil. I give them credit for having a real person respond to emails about removing your information. They will remove your results from google searches if you contact them at mail At Pipl Dot Com but will not take down your profile.

For $40, you can also pay many sites to get even more complete records of anyone that you want. I understand that business model and market need for this information for those who are willing to pay. I don't appreciate the business model of the sites above that use my available personal information as their product. At least include me on a pay for click model for people who search for me. All their sites claim that they search available public data bases and are merely aggregators who just happened to put together profiles that would only appeal to people who you generally wouldn't want to find you.


Don's sister said...

Don alerted me to pipl and spokeo, about which I didn't even know. I find this extremely scary. It essentially gives stalkers and harassers (and I throw marketers into both these categories) easy access to you and chasing down all the sites that crop up with this information is near impossible.

Deadhedge said...

It is scary how easy they make it to access information? I also want to emphasize that most of the info they have on their sites is incorrect.

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