Monday, February 19, 2007

ZABA SEARCH: Everything AND Your Kitchen Sink

I was watching that old movie, Jeremiah Johnson, the story about the mountain man who disappears into the Utah wilderness in the 1800's to get away from civilization. He just dropped out. The only ones he communed with were others like him, a few native Americans, the flora and the fauna.

Boy, would this guy have hated'd of taken his hatchet and gun and raked the servers, but only after he did the same to the internet entrepreneurs who own what they bill as the #1 people search engine in the world.

Put in your own name and you will find every place you've ever lived, including phone numbers. Enter your name in all various forms: first, last; first middle initial last; middle name, last. You can search by Social Security number, a phone number. You'll find it all pulled up from public records.

When Zaba search first started, they had an 'opt out' clause where people could write in and they'd take you off. But now this is on their privacy statement: "At this time, Zaba, Inc. does not offer any means of opting out one's records from the service." I guess they couldn't pay enough people in India to input the data that would take off the flood of people who'd request their names be taken out.

Anita Ramasastry, an associate professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law, writes that search engines like this are legal "because, according to the site, its data come from publicly available government records and commercial sources."

Ever wonder why you've got so many people offering to sell you cheap furnaces, second-rate mortgages, homes you don't want? Or how about those phone calls asking you to buy stuff? Yup, they get data from services such as Zabasearch. So what's one supposed to do? What if you're a celebrity? Do you simply list your business address on everything? Is this what we, the average Jane and Joe, must do as well?

It seems like there isn't any hope for those of us who'd like to think that somewhere out there that some part of our privacy can be preserved as Jeremiah Johnson's. Indeed, from his perspective, the whole world has already hurtled like this:

Jeremiah Johnson: Where you headed?
Del Gue: Same place you are, Jeremiah: hell, in the end.


Nubia said...

Come on, Kanani! This crap is freaking me out! I am SO in the dark about how much info people have access to about me! Not that I have a bunch of skeletons in the closet. It's just that I THOUGHT I was a very private person!

Please don't give any more leads:-)

At least, if they want to know more about me, they'll have to pay for it:-)

I'll see if I'm special enough that one is willing to spend $39.95 to get the 4-1-1.


Kanani said...

No, we happen to know that you lived in Texarkana with a guy named Bubba Joe, a dog named Whiskey, and a cat named Sourpuss.

Ed Padgett said...

Thanks Kanani,

I have just spent forty-five minutes researching my boss.

Lots of free information, wonder what information the $49.95 would reveal?