10 Online Destinations That Know Too Much About You

Information sharing has become a sociological norm in this high-tech age.  At times it’s a conscious  choice; but more and more often, it’s being done without our knowledge or permission. Social networking invites a certain amount of disclosure, in what is expected to be a safe and controlled environment. Some websites obtain info about us either through various means of data mining, such as the use of cookies or beacons. There are a lot of sites out there that know more about you than you think.

Here are 10 such sites that know entirely too much about you:

  1. Facebook – Although this obviously falls within the category of those sites with whom you’ve chosen to share personal information, what happens with that info after you’ve shared it isn’t always a matter of choice. Facebook doesn’t actively share your personal info with other sites; but some of those sites do use that info you’ve already shared to target their ads, and to resell that info to other companies.
  2. Google – As with Facebook, the personal information that Google has on you was all provided by you voluntarily, such as through your email , Picasa, YouTube, or Blogger accounts. Google’s a colossus of stored info, so by its very nature as a clearinghouse of information. It has the goods on you tucked away in its vaults. Including a picture of where you live at Google Street View.
  3. Spokeo.com – Known as a social networking aggregator , Spokeo.com essentially compiles all of the personal information that you’ve volunteered at sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc, and makes that info available at their own site. Even mailing lists and photo albums you’ve got have nuggets of personal data that Spokeo will glean for public consumption.
  4. RapLeaf – One of a growing number of data-mining companies, RapLeaf sells personal info to companies that want to customize ads to their consumers. RapLeaf was banned by Facebook in October, 2010 for scraping users’ ID’s and other personal data.
  5. Amazon – Because so many consumers shop there, in addition to the fact that 3rd party vendors sell their merchandise through the site, Amazon.com represents a mother lode of useful purchasing and personal data.
  6. ZabaSearch – Although they have since provided consumers with an option to receive notification if their private information is being requested by a third party, or to have it removed,  ZabaSearch gathers that data from disparate sources. They then collate it and make it available and searchable from their database. Information includes social security numbers, criminal background checks, and satellite photos.
  7. Your own Blog – Along with any accounts and memberships you’ve created at social networking sites, you’re providing a fair amount of useful data yourself on that blog of yours.
  8. Whois.net – Whois.net is a lookup directory for finding domain information such as site ownership and domain name availability. Such directories also include your own personal information which you provided when you signed up for that blog.
  9. Any website that uses web bugs, cookies, beacons – Behavioral marketing is the future of commerce. When a company can discern a consumer’s buying habits and history, it can target its  advertising more effectively, and therefore, more cost-effectively. So there’s huge incentive on the part of commercial websites to gather as much data on you as possible.
  10. Credit Bureaus – The three major reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – compile all of your credit history, including loans, bank accounts, addresses, judgments, social security number and date of birth. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows creditors access to those records if they are considering entering into a credit agreement of some kind with the consumer. It also provides for consumers to request free credit reports for their own review.

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