Spokeo? Helpful or Extortion?

I heard about Spokeo and I’m passing the word. I’ve removed myself and here’s why.

To remove yourself, for free, go to their Privacy Page, and follow the simple instructions.

Spokeo claims their information is available from public sources. However, do we really know that? Do we know that they have not made relationships with database companies that folks would have to pay dearly to join to get my information, for example. They don’t say that, at least not in the large print that I could read.

To edit my information on Spokeo, I have to join, which costs money: $35.40/ year or more. And I have no idea whether I can actually edit my own information for that price. I have a large problem with having to pay to keep my information private, or at least not have my information collected on their easy to access and cheap site. If I’m a stalker, then Spokeo is cheap. If I’m trying to protect myself, then it sounds expensive. They want me to join Spokeo, or the even more expensive Reputation Defender – which they say is a Partner – and costs $8/ mo not $3/mo. Is Reputation Defender a separate company, or the other half of a business plan.

I don’t know what these folks are doing, but let me float you a business plan for a new hypothetical company and see what you think.

  1. First I get a few cheap offshore web developers and
  2. a little cash and join up with some not-so-private services and enter into agreements to republish their data. Sure it may be “public” but not that easy to get because as a private person, you have to pay big bucks to join each one, like $100 / year or more. But my new company will make a deal with each one to feed them a portion of my profits from my members.
  3. Then the offshore workers build a big database and a spiffy site and folks find me and do phone number / address etc searches for free, so that shows everyone that I have data on them.
  4. But I might or might not have a lot more data on them, and of course they won’t be able to tell that I have nothing of interest unless they pay me. Not for a month, but for a whole year. So they can’t find out they have nothing for $3, they have to pay $35. Or maybe as little as $15 if you pay for 3 months.
  5. And they get to see their own detailed information, and the data of everybody else.
  6. Then I offer a “premium” service that looks like it comes from another company, say “Privacy Assurance” or even scarier, “Reputation Defender” (say this is in a loud ominous voice). And this service costs more than twice what the basic service costs. But the premium service can’t really protect or defend anything since the deep databases are run by lots of other companies, for which there is no privacy laws and no guarantee of anybody’s right to remove or edit their data. Sure the Privacy Assurance company can defend you from My Company. No problem. But beyond that it is powerless. Remember that whatever my “Privacy Assurance” company says they can do, is probably not true since these source database companies make money from lots of folks like Banks, Credit Agencies, Private Detectives and Skip Tracers to have the data that they have. So my new Privacy Assurance company will not be able to edit their data. That sounds like a lot of nonsense if that’s what they are claiming.

Does this sound like a business plan that I could sell to a venture capitalist? Maybe not, but it only takes a few thousand dollars to start such a business, especially if I get the programming done offshore, so I don’t really need a lot of funding to get started.

So, it appears to me that these folks are only one notch up the scale from the company that Claims your computer has a virus, then when you ask for more information and a scan, downloads a program to encrypt your hard drive and then charges you to get your data back. These folks are extortionists. What is Spokeo?

Am I wrong?

– windy