Parents Teaching Cyber Safety
As someone who writes a blog, my standards of privacy are probably more loose than some. After all, the best moments to share and write about are the personal ones. However, when it comes to revealing my location data online, tagging images, or disclosing financial information, I try to make sure that nothing is posted online or via social sharing sites without my prior approval. For the first several months, I wasn’t even comfortable showing my kids’ faces on my blog.
I can remember as a child, my grandma, who was a widow, still listed her phone number in the white pages under her husband’s name (even after he’d been gone 30 years) simply out of safety. She didn’t want anyone to know she lived alone. That knowledge stuck with me as an adult and as I came across a website recently that is available to the public, I was shocked to see how much someone can find out about you in a click of a button. I am posting this because I feel that everyone has a right to know how their information is being shared. Single mothers, the elderly and teens are often victims of crimes because they are viewed as being “easy prey.” I want to arm everyone with the information they need to help make that statement false.
Introducing www.spokeo.com – a website that takes every piece of information you could want on a person and serves it up on a silver platter. Sure, Spokeo’s disclaimer says that all the information they have on you comes from public records, but they’ve made easily accessible all in one place so you don’t have to get court documents, pick up a phone book or even be friends on Facebook in order to access it. It’s a stalker’s greatest tool.
The good news is, you CAN have your data removed. It’s sort of like the DO NOT CALL process. But get ready, because if you are like me and have had several addresses as well as last names over the years, you have to request each one be removed one by one. I showed up nine different ways, for example. For those of you with family or grandparents who may not be savvy to the ways of the internet, I am going to give you step by step instructions on what to do to get removed from this website.
Step 1 – Search
Type the name and the state of the person you are looking to remove. If they lived in more than one state, you will have to repeat the process for each.
Step 2 – Results
After typing the person’s name and state, a list of matches will result. I scratched out my address, but you can see I showed up three times under one city and state.
Look at the profile for a moment. Notice that you can actually see a GPS map of your neighborhood and what your home looks like. They give you an estimate of your home’s worth. Under the family section, they have populated it with the family members for whom they think you are related along with their ages. For an extra fee, they can link your social networks to your profile so that someone can find you on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and a host of other places. Your income would also be made available.
Step 3 – Remove
First, copy the URL at the top for each of your listings. (Remember, I had to do this nine different times.) Then, go to the Privacy link at the bottom of the page, click on it. You will see a place to paste the URL you copied to request removal of your information for that profile. You will have to provide an email for Spokeo to send a confirmation link (so ironically, you are giving them more information.) Click “Remove this listing.” Once submitted, the page will be removed immediately if you refresh your web page. (Make sure your cache settings are turned off.)
Step 4 – Confirm
To confirm removal of your profile link you MUST click a confirmation link which will arrive in the email box you provided during your removal request. Once you have confirmed the removal, the process is complete.
To note: I had to do this over the course of two days because Spokeo has a limit to the number that they can process. See their website explanation on Removal Limit
Spokeo understands your privacy concerns, and provides a convenient way to remove your public search results. In order to prevent abuse from spammers and bots, all users are allowed to remove a limited number of results each day per IP address. If you are seeing this error message at work, your limit may already be exceeded by other co-workers who are also trying to remove their results. Our servers will read the requests as coming from the same IP address since multiple people are trying to remove results from the same location. Please try to remove your search results from your home computer, or try again the following day.
I encourage everyone to check their profile and have themselves removed if you are concerned about your data being made so easily available to anyone who seeks it. If you don’t really care, at least visit the site to learn more. It may seem like some work, but is it too much to protect your family?
I cannot reiterate the importance of safety if you are a parent. Unfortunately, you never know who is accessing your information these days. Teach your children the same.
Here is a list of other 25 other websites that collect your personal data:
- Did My Rapist Find Me on Spokeo? [First Person] (jezebel.com)
- Is Spokeo a Threat to Your Privacy? (zazenlife.com)
- How to remove yourself from 25 people search databases (moniqueberryreport.wordpress.com)
- How to remove yourself from 25 people search databases (checkthis1out.wordpress.com)