Care to spend your holiday weekend policing directory listings?

Summary:I'm not a fan in general of sites that create a listing or profile for you, hoping you'll eventually claim and/or correct it. This tactic, neither user-centric nor user-driven, is insidious for at least three reasons:inaccuracies proliferate,privacy is frequently jeopardized, andusers are required to invest considerable time and supply yet more personal data in an effort to remedy 1 and 2.

Care to spend your holiday weekend policing directory listings?

I'm not a fan in general of sites that create a listing or profile for you, hoping you'll eventually claim and/or correct it. This tactic, neither user-centric nor user-driven, is insidious for at least three reasons:

  1. inaccuracies proliferate,
  2. privacy is frequently jeopardized, and
  3. users are required to invest considerable time and supply yet more personal data in an effort to remedy 1 and 2.

David Lazarus gives examples of these sorts of problems in his Los Angeles Times piece today, Social networking site divulges child's personal information. He tells of a mom who looked up her Reunion.com listing just to see what it might say, and learned it included her toddler son's name and their family's home town: things she would rather not have readily associated with one another. This occurred even though Reunion.com says it creates its listings only from "publicly available" information, including that purchased from a data broker. When the Times came calling, Reunion.com removed the reference and now says "measures have been put in place to make it easier for people to have information deleted from the site," though I don't see much here that bears this out.

Lazarus tapped privacy guru Ray Everett-Church for his thoughts on the matter. There goes the weekend:

[I]t's up to parents to monitor online directories such as Reunion.com and make sure their kids' names aren't present.

Everett-Church also suggests parents do everything they can to keep children's information out of corporate databases — presumably by using false names when subscribing to magazines, using online services, etc.

There are market opportunities around these pain points. The value of brokered data plummets once enough people game and/or end-run that system, whereas the value of systems and relationships that meet expectations and demands around accuracy, privacy, and time efficiency goes through the roof.

Elsewhere in the L.A. Times, Numedeon Inc.'s Jen Sun thinks there's an upside to ruses run by some Whyville users who con others out of online goods and funds in exchange for nonexistent rewards: "It's a learning experience for the victim not to be so gullible, not to be motivated by greed, because the scammers use greed against you." I hope we don't have to wait for all the nine year-olds to grow up in order to figure this stuff out.

(Image by LabGP & SigOther's, CC Attribution-2.0)

Topics: Legal

About

Denise Howell is an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer who enjoys broad industry recognition for her expertise on the intersection of emerging technologies and law. For further details please see her professional background and speaking schedule. Denise's career is characterized by her passionate engagement in intell... Full Bio

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