Friday, October 17, 2008

PeekABoo I See You. But You Can't See Me.

I have always found the “vanity search” assignment in my class a fun and enlightening one. Over the last several years there has been a drastic change in the utilization of technology and search, so that it is not a foreign topic and the students have a greater degree of familiarity with the idea of searching for information about your own self online.

Even so, with a larger number of students, there are still a few who don’t believe there is any information about them online. There almost always is. Each year there is charged conversation around the idea of privacy in one form or another and each year another company surfaces that is in the business of collecting and providing information on individuals without their knowledge and through the aggregation of public records.

Intellius was once again a topic of conversation for those who found it a bit disconcerting that along with the name, there was often an association of family members and the listing of age as an identifier.

They are not alone in the people search game by a long shot, with companies like Spock and Wink providing even more information.

Spock collects data from the expanse of the web and focuses on areas such as wikipedia, photo sites, blogs and social networks. Now we are talking about likes, dislikes, affiliates and notes.

However, this year, the biggest shock for the class came from a web company that not only helps you to find a person and information about them, but also allows for you to anonymously follow their online information and activity.

PeekYou, which also lists places you have lived and your age offers a feature that once you find a person you want information on you can select “track me”

As PeekYou explains this feature:

PeekYou now allows you to "track" anyone on the web. Whenever we discover a new link, tag, or information, or if someone posts a new message to Andrew Fry's PeekYou profile, we'll send you an email so you can be the first to know. In order to track Andrew Fry, input your contact information on the left. Once you have finished entering your information, click the "Track Them" button. We will send you an email with a confirmation link.

But check out the tag lines following that.

"Track Me" is 100% anonymous. PeekYou will never display or publicly disclose who you are tracking.

It is those last two sentences that are the creepiest. How many circumstances are there that someone feels a need to simultaneously follow around someone online, yet remain anonymous about it. Sounds like a better name for the feature would be “Stalk Me”.

Mind you it is all drawn from publicly accessible information and in my opinion is a product of technology use as a society we need to discuss further. In particular, the extent to which information about individuals is aggregated and then disseminated.

The students, and myself, find it a little unsettling. No telling what will be available next year.


WritersHairClip said...

Peekyou's tracking system isn't that far off from Facebooks and myspace updates. Evertime one of your freind's adds pictures, writes a blog or even changes the tiniest detail on their profile. It is all put on a big feed where you can see everyone's updates. Of course these are limited to social network sites.
Peekyou is more of a general, if your stalkee made a move at all anywhere online they will tell you. Which is even worse and more unsettling.
I think that sites realized people are interested in their freind's news now.

Bekkah29 said...

I think it's important to remember that on networks like MySpace and Facebook, you can control who can see what and you're aware of your information being out there and it's potential viewers. Also, only your "friends" on these accounts are able to get notices of your updates and status, etc.. is truely creepy because anyone could be tracking you and for many who don't even know of a site like this, you have no clue you are at contant risk of being a potential target. It really just creeps me out! Scary to think how dangerous this could be in cases of real life obsessed stalkers!

I fully agree with Prof. Fry, this issue must be looked at. And in general, we really must get up to speed with protecting ourselves from the internet!

Special K said...

That really freaks me out. Part of me thinks it should be illegal (it would be if someone did it in person!). The other part of me says that it shouldn't be illegal because one could (if they decided to spend some time) find all of the information on their own, without PeekYou. I just don't think they should make it easy for people to do this, and I don't think that companies like PeekYou and Intelius should profit off this stuff. It's lame.

Brock said...

I have an update about Intellius. My girlfriend used my credit card on this site for a 2 dollar charge to get some info on an ex that stole a quad from her. That was it. I checked my statement on that card today and there is a 19.95 subscription charge from Intellius on there. Nice. When I call the number on the charge I get a recorded voice saying Intellius is only open for calls Mon - Fri 9 - 4 and it hangs up. Nice. What a BS company!! Don't ever give them your card info!!

Ziggy said...

I can say that I did not enjoy finding information about my self and the fact that anyone can see all kinds of information about me when ever they feel like it is well creepy. I like that you can control who sees you on places like my space and face book. I think there should be an option that allows people to take there information off of the web. Some sort of searching virus that wipes out all your information or something. That would be for only the people that wanted that done. I think this issue should be addressed in one way or another.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...