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Spokeo Fined $800K By FTC For Marketing Its Services To Employers 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the ftc-wearing-the-daddypants-today dept.
nonprofiteer writes "Spokeo was one of the first public-facing person-profiling companies to attract the ire of those profiled. Taglined 'not your grandmother's phonebook,' it offers up profiles pulled from public records, social networking sites, etc, including your address, worth of your home, who's in your family, your estimated wealth, your hobbies and interests, and more. People freaked out when they first discovered it. Apparently, the company was selling reports to employers, but not following principles set forth by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Federal Trade Commission is fining them $800,000. FTC also chastises them for writing fake positive reviews around the Web."
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Spokeo Fined $800K By FTC For Marketing Its Services To Employers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @04:01PM (#40300113)

    $800,000 and a "don't do that again, or at least don't get caught" is a slap on the wrist in this type of market.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      It's a very big slap though to a small company like this.

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Yea, fines are always a slap on the wrist kind of deals. Very rarely will they ever seem to be of a size enough to make the company think twice.

    • by Saroful (1364377) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @04:22PM (#40300361)
      The FTC should have forced them to send a copy of each and every report they sent out and to whom. The cost of sending out all of the reports, plus of all the lawsuits by those that were denied jobs because of the bad information within them, would be far above the fine.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        How is it even legal for employers to request that kind of information? It isn't in the UK.

  • It's fine like these that makes me sick. With the amount of money these guys make there probably laughing.
    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Yea, often times they just budget fines like this into their operating expenses.

    • by mr1911 (1942298)
      Really? What are Spokeo's financials? Revenue and even cash flow can make $800k look small, but fines come out of profit.

      So yeah, for Apple $800k is nothing. For many businesses $800k is a death sentence. I hope it is the latter for Spokeo, but it won't really matter as the torch will simply pass to the next scumbag in line.
      • trust me, it's not death sentence since a good business man will know how to deal with this case very softly. opening up another business is an idea and has been done before to either avoid or delay the 800k fine to pay up. Theres the fact that you can play on the market and/or your capitals to gain lots of revenue and pay less income in the end. In conclusion, those businessmen will never take 800k$ fine as a death sentence...unfortunately. But I'm with ya on this one.
  • by LordKronos (470910) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @04:10PM (#40300207) Homepage

    I can't imagine anyone using spokeo for anything important, as their info is not even close to being correct. When I checked my profile a year or 2 ago (When you could see it all without paying), it had me living in a million dollar home (off by more than an order of magnitude), with a several hobbies which weren't even the slightest bit correct (knitting, and horses I think), and had someone the same age as my mother living in the house, despite the fact that she never lived there, had any mail delivered there, or anything. I don't remember the rest, but category after category I was reading it thinking "wow, I barely even know myself".

    • by Bill Dimm (463823)

      and had someone the same age as my mother living in the house, despite the fact that she never lived there

      Give Spokeo the credit that is due -- they do know about that woman you have chained up in your basement.

    • by mr1911 (1942298)
      The problem isn't whether or not you know the information presented about you is correct, it is whether others viewing the information believe it or not.
      • Of course the people who paid for the data believe it. They paid good money for it, which is a powerful mechanism for making people want to believe what they read, particular when it is presented as being factual.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      it had me living in a million dollar home (off by more than an order of magnitude)

      Oh I see how it is, mister fancy-pants $10M+ home.

    • Well, going around calling yourself 'Lord' is going to lead to errors like this.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    About invasive species hitching a ride on the wake of a tsunami [slashdot.org].

    Well, in metaphorical terms, I guess. At least the dupes are getting more sophisticated.

  • It found me. But then again, I'm retired and my name and address is all over the internet having been doing web sites since 1995. Personally I couldn't care less what information it collects on me, but I'm sure a younger person would. I didn't pay the US$14.95 (or what ever it was) to see "everything", but I can see it has the wrong phone number but the right address for me. Then again, this isn't anything new. I remember in the mid- to late- 1990's there were several companies on the internet that did cour
    • by jaymon (1087729)
      It found me too. Wrong phone number and email address (never ever used that provider). Spend a few minutes removing myself and my wife (two listing for her!). Who would use this service (?) if it seems to be so f**ked up?
      • I didn't bother to go through the "removal" process. I hope it works for you. I did go back to the site and took a closer look and it has 6 entries for me from what I can tell - Some old stuff, some more recent stuff and what not. Different old phone numbers, addresses, etc. As to who uses it, mainly uninformed people who believe the information is correct, probably. To me it's been a game for a long time. For example - Four Facebook profiles, each with different information but very close to same name (I d

  • A company like this should be shut down. If someone voluntarily gives their data to a social networking site like Facebook, shouldn't that data remain private to Facebook? You opted on your own to give Facebook that data. So Facebook can store it as you want it. You didn't put your contact information on FB so that Spokeo can poach that data and use it to sell your information.

    Isn't that data technically property of Facebook/Myspace/etc. anyways? Sure you can chose to give out your data elsewhere and anywhe

    • by Hatta (162192)

      You didn't put your contact information on FB so that Spokeo can poach that data and use it to sell your information.

      If you ask Facebook, that's *exactly* why you put your information on Facebook. That's the only reason Facebook exists.

      When did it become acceptable to post information about people without their permission?

      Since the First Amendment.

    • by DogDude (805747)
      You don't get out much, do you? Facebook sells your information. Always has. Always will. It was in the agreement you agreed to when you signed up. People have been talking about it for years. Where have you been?
    • by Shotgun (30919)

      When did it become acceptable to post information about people without their permission?

      When people started living together.

      Seriously, these types of endeavours are analogous to the 18th century "town gossip". And by "these types", I include the credit reporting agencies. They were considered to be borderline rude busybodies then, and the characterization hasn't changed much. If they didn't have politicians in their pockets, there'd be a simple solution to their shenanigans. Simply require them to report to the target what they are reporting to the customer.

      That gives me a chance to blow a

  • Maybe Slashdot can buy an account, username:slashdot, password:slashdot, and we can all check ourselves out to see what they have on us?

    Because currently it costs money. Posting this story might drive people to buy their product, even.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @04:59PM (#40300775)

    Apparently, the company was selling reports to employers, but not following principles set forth by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

    Call me cynical, but it sounds like their real crime was not being one of the Big Three credit agencies, probably do worse stuff, more often.

    • by gatfirls (1315141)
      No, it's pretty bad when a "reporting agency" can basically say "welp this is what we think is their information" and present it as fact. It's a pretty basic protection we need from exactly silly stuff like this. FTFA: "The problem highlighted by the FTC was not the core of what Spokeo does — cyberstalking you! — but that it was selling the information to employers without following the principles of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, i.e. not making sure the info in its reports was accurate an
  • by CimmerianX (2478270) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @05:31PM (#40301255)

    Looking at the site, there is a 'remove' option in the privacy link.
    http://www.spokeo.com/privacy [spokeo.com]

    I wonder if it actually removes you or if they just add your ip to the list of info. i.e. "Likes using Firefox"

  • And I bet they made more in a week than that fine cost them. The marketing guys are getting a fat bonus this year (so are their friends at the FTC)
  • OK I am taking this from memory , but back around 2002 there used to be a website called , I think, Eliyon (don't take my memory as infallible here) which offered up profiles of people including, I distinctly remember, very personal stuff which could only be inferences about their characters, like, oh, the fact that they might be addicted to masturbation.

    Apparently this would have been gleaned, I really have no idea, from information from porn websites or chat room logs, in some sort of arrangement

  • Okay. I've had Spokeo remove my data before, and assumed I'd be gone when I double checked today. Nope: they have/had multiple records for me, showing multiple addresses, and a lot of personal data. So I told them to remove the listings again. Let's see how long it lasts, this time.

    Perhaps even worse, though, is that in each case they had an partial email account listed for me, ending in @aol.com. I haven't had AOL since the 80s, (QuantumLink, PC-Link, etc.) but I have had a couple of AOL IM accounts, and t

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