Tuesday, March 10, 2009

good to know

Last night, I found out about a website called "Delver" (and a handful of others that I'll go over as well) which seeks to "take social networking to a new level" by changing the way your search results are gathered.

What does this mean to you? Well, let me explain:

A typical search engine crawls the Web by following links to URLs found in other pages. By contrast, theses sites are using the "Deep Web", which is made up of pages that no other pages link to. Dynamic pages are a good example. When someone searches for you by name, email address, or telephone number, a host in relevant information will turn up.

I typed in my own name and found photos from my public MySpace page, a link to my MySpace page, my friends, my videos, my Picassa images, and even my Stumble account bookmarks. Even worse, the site features non-current data which appeared on my profile over a year ago, including photos which have been deleted long ago.

You don't need an account to view the information, however, the site lures you in by allowing you to sign up to "claim" your account (so again, giving even more information). This allows you to decide how you want that information to appear to others, but the catch here is that there is no way for you to opt to make this profile private so I'm not really sure why it's worth it take ownership over the "profile" so that you can add to it but not have complete control over it. (check out this article on Delver at Tech Crunch for a clearer explanation on how this works.)

A Laptopmag review says, "When we first used Delver, we felt a bit creeped out: you can’t use the search engine without first creating a profile. When we typed in our real name, Delver, by default, used our LinkedIn profile to gather basic information on us (such as previous jobs and geographic location). You can also add your profiles from a variety of other popular sites, including Blogger, Facebook, Flickr, and MySpace, among others. For privacy’s sake, you can change your display name to an alias".

Prepare for this: it doesn't end with Delver (I was silly to think that it would)

Wink "provides search results on people from social networks like MySpace, LinkedIn and Bebo. Users search based on name, geography and other criteria (company, school, whatever) and see results from major social networks."

Spock beta indexes the entire web to search for people-related data. "Spock will generate a lot of controversy because individuals are not in complete control of their profile. The community decides on descriptive tags for a person." "Litigation is sure to follow from celebrity types not happy with their Spock profile, but Singh said flat out tonight that the site will firmly fight any attempts to defy the community’s decisions on
descriptive tags."

And then there's pipl. Tech Crunch posted this article, aptly titled, "Pipl.com: People Search Engine So Good, It Will Scare Your Pants Off" "It produces not only links to all of your profiles on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, blog mentions, and photos on Flickr. It finds mentions of your name in public records, including property records, SEC filings, and birth databases. It also finds e-mail addresses and summarizes “quick facts” about the person." (UH... NOT COOL WITH THIS)

Give it a try. See what shows up. How do you feel about it? I felt violated only to realize that every time I open an account online, by agreeing to the terms of service, I'm saying that it's okay for the public to see my information. I hadn't thought that someone would develop websites like these to corral ALL of those pages and put them in one place for someone to view. What this means to me, is that if I'm looking for a job, a potential employer could not only look for me on Linkedin for my professional information, but they can see things that I don't think should be part of the job screening process. If you enjoy watching Youtube videos or if you have a Flickr account, those will show up too. So, be aware that if you post images of you drinking with your friends or posing in a sexy photo on vacation, your potential employer can see it. It also means that a routine email to a stranger/associate/family member suddenly opens up your entire life to them, should they choose to visit these sites.

The thing is that we knew all of this when you opened your online accounts! They're public! So, there's not really anything that we can do about it... except maybe making sure that they are all set to private, and that you use different email accounts and aliases when opening new ones in the future.


mieke said...

Weird, when I type in my name or my most frequently used username in Delver I don't get shit and I am all over the stupid ass internets.

Mlle said...

Well, I had mixed results between the pages. I tried Spock beta, pipl, and Delver. My "Delver" profile didn't just show up in a Google search, although Dean's did so I'm not sure what determines that result.