Spokeo: Stalking Made Simple

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We often hear about “doxing” in various media reports on issues like online bullying and cyber stalking but what is often missing from those reports is how so much personal info is easily obtained. The subject of this report Spokeo plays a huge part in making personal and sometimes erroneous information very much public and available to all.

If you do an internet search on someone chances are Spokeo will be the first result that pops up. They are the top people search aggregate that both ruthlessly and shamelessly collects, stores and publishes information about anyone including underage children from hundreds of sources according to the FTC, these sources are not just from public social media sources like Facebook but from credit card companies, credit reporting agencies, ad companies, etc.

When I first started writing this article I had no idea where it would lead me but the more I looked into this company the more concerned I became about the hypocrisy, the appearance of impropriety with Pasadena City officials like City Manager Michael Beck, using children as props/photo ops possibly without their parent’s permission and posting their faces on their website, the over 100 complaints filed against it from the BBB and ConsumerReports , the $800,000 fine from the FTC, the pending supreme court case against it and a tweet to an anti-semitic racist commemorating the Birthday of Malcolm X.

 

Spokeo

“We actually believe in being open” – Harrison Tang

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Co-Founder and CEO of Spokeo Harrison Tang

Spokeo which was co-founded in 2006 by Harrison Chin-Yen Tang (the company’s current CEO), said he came up with the idea of the company in his parent’s basement and since then he has made millions off of violating the privacy of others.

Harrison on the other hand takes his own privacy along with the privacy of his employees very seriously.

In fact so seriously that you will not find anything about him or any employees in the database, employees are often nameless on on their official blog or referred to by nicknames or just by their first names like “Vanessa”, “Roy” and “Kimberly”.

In 2010 he even refused to meet with LA Times reporter David Lazarus at their company’s office after agreeing to do an interview, instead he chose to meet at a starbucks. The reporter noted at the time:

 

I’d love to say that we met at his Pasadena office, where I was able to get a sense of what this company was about and who works there. But Tang wanted to get together instead at a Starbucks outlet. It was the first hint that privacy is very much on his mind — his own, that is.

It should also be noted that on his company’s contact page he uses a UPS Store mailbox as their official location (Source) and on his various business licenses he uses an address which belongs to a law office (Source).

Unfortunately victims of domestic violence, law enforcement officers, rape victims, judges and even public figures such as actors and entertainers don’t get to enjoy the same level of privacy he and his employees get to afford because since 2006 his company has made it easy for anyone  to find out where you or even your family lives in and they seemingly take pride in this and no one is off limits.

In a post titled: “Top 10 People Searches – Celebrity Moms”, not only do they name the children of these actors but link to their Spokeo “profiles” on their website.

Keep in mind most of the actresses/mothers listed in their blog post have been victims of vicious stalking, Sandra Bullock in particular came face to face with her stalker who snuck into her house unbeknownst to her and stayed there until she discovered him at dawn (Source).

Even though they claim to have a process in place for people to have their profiles deleted nothing stops the company from re-activating it and nothing prevents stalkers from using this service to look up a victim’s family members, sadly most victims aren’t even going know about this site to be able to remove information until after the fact or it’s too late.

One in 6 women (16.2%) and 1 in 19 men (5.2%) in the United States have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

While Spokeo shows up to events like Girl Geek Dinners, women are more likely the victims of stalking according to an article published by the Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University (Source).

Keep in mind that if you’re a mom running away from an abusive relationship, Spokeo makes it easy for your stalker to find you and your family.

“We call ourselves the universal people search,” Tang said. “We have access to 600 million historical records and court records. We have addresses, emails, phone numbers, social network profiles, court records … and we also have professional business information. So if someone owned a business we’d have a record of that.” – Harrison Tang

Public Relations

Image is everything to Harrison and his cohorts at Spokeo especially after a complaint was launched by the Center for Democracy and Technology  which resulted in him being fined $800,000 by the FTC for violating the  Fair Credit Reporting Act and having to plead to using their own employees to post fake endorsements on various websites and blogs. (Source)

They’ve since tried to tout themselves as everything from a dating service to social justice warriors just trying to reunite people and help the community when that is far from the truth. This is where Vanessa Flores Waite plays a key role.

Vanessa Flores Waite

Vanessa Flores Waite also known as Vanessa F on the community blog is charged with trying to put a friendly face on this treacherous company but the pure hypocrisy and the reckless disregard and indifference to others on her part is astounding as you will see. While Vanessa has no problem listing the names and address of hundreds of people on the blog her own information is unavailable for public consumption.

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In a post titled “Top Horror Movie Villains Who Share “Real People” Names” she lists names of real people who happen to have the names of fictional characters in movies like Carrie White and Samara Morgan and includes links which lists their names, address, phone # knowing full well this list opens these poor people up to harassment.

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Under the description for two names she writes:

Carrie White – The blood drenched, high school slasher shares a name with 3326 listings across the US, according to Spokeo. 295 of them reside in Texas!

Samara Morgan – She’s the creepy little girl from “The Ring” and she shares her name with people from 24 Spokeo listings. Hopefully none of them burn images into innocent minds or emerge from a TV screen.

Apparently she takes glee in violating the privacy of others, absolutely disgusting.

 

Spokeo’s relationship with Pasadena City officials

 

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Spokeo Employee Angela Saverice-Rohan with Pasadena Vice Mayor Jackie Robinson

When Spokeo founder/ceo isn’t putting millions of people in danger like police officers, social workers, judges, victims of domestic violence, celebs at risk for profit, he and his employees love to  rub shoulders with the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Pasadena they even went to a football game courtesy of Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck which just reeks of impropriety.

In a 2013 blog post they thanked the City Manager for providing treating them with seats to a football game. (Source)

 

Thanks to our friends at the City of Pasadena, especially Michael Beck, City Manager, we were treated to a few seats at UCLA’s Football game this past weekend.

Beck himself has been linked to a $6.4 million embezzlement scandal in which some have been calling for his resignation (Source 1) (Source 2)

Photo ops

 

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CEO Tang playing around in a Pasadena Fire Department truck

They will stop at nothing to maintain that image including going to Mothers’ Club Learning Center in Pasadena and using children as props for self promotion by plastering their faces on Spokeo “community blog” likely without parental permission and even if they got some permission the photos off as self serving, exploitative and creepy.

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From left to right: Unidentified Female Learning Center Employee, Spokeo Chief Privacy Officer “Angela” aka Angela Saverice-Rohan, Co-Founder Mike Daly, CEO/Founder Harriason Tang, Co-Founder Ray Chen, Mothers’ Club Executive Director Hector LaFarga, Jr, 2 other female Learning Center employees

“In 2012, we made about $22 million in revenue. This year, we made about $57 million. If we continue this growth trajectory, I think we can hit about $100 million in two years.” – Harrison Tang in an interview with La Business Journal

While they’ve made tens of millions violating the privacy and security of others one has to wonder why Tang only gave the Pasadena Boys and Girls Club Mackenzie-Scott  Branch a measly $2,000 and “a bucket of gold and silver (chocolate) coins” during his latest photo op where he brought along a person dressed in a giant 10-12 foot tall column adorned with the Spokeo logo (Source).

In conclusion

I’ve never seen a company of this size show such disregard and indifference for its own customers and the public and continue to do for nearly a decade despite being hit with a massive fine from the federal government and while they have participated in various functions and events geared towards women they have done nothing to help victims stalking or abuse hide their information which says a lot.

There are admittedly privacy issues with social-media companies like Facebook but at least consumers can choose if they want to be involved or not by simply not signing up but with Spokeo you don’t have that option, everything about you has been gobbled up by them and put out there for anyone to grab except when it comes to their own.

So can Spokeo reach any new lows as a company?

Apparently so,

Not too long ago they sent this tweet commemorating the Birthday of Malcolm X to the Nation of Islam (@OfficialNOI) which is headed up by anti semitic racist Loius Farakken who called Judaism a “Gutter religion”, called Jewish business owners “Bloodsuckers” and stated that “Hitler was a very great man.(Source).

Does Spokeo, Harrison Tang or any of its employees like Vanessa Flores Waite (who likely handles tweets) subscribe or endorse these racist views?

This is just one of many things you should think about the next time Harrison and the gang shows up at Fire Station, to an after school event or daycare center looking to exploit people for another photo OP to post on their website.

Sources and credits:

While writing this article I had to do a lot of research into Spokeo, here are just a few sources that were used as research.

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/06/spokeo-pay-800000-settle-ftc-charges-company-allegedly-marketed

http://jezebel.com/5890590/did-my-rapist-find-me-on-spokeo

http://labusinessjournal.com/news/2014/dec/18/spokeo-ceo-talks-record-growth/

http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Spokeocom/internet/Spokeocom-refuses-to-refund-yearly-payment-for-services-no-longer-provided-Internet-841066

http://www.bbb.org/losangelessiliconvalley/business-reviews/information-bureaus/spokeo-in-pasadena-ca-100090032

https://www.linkedin.com/in/vanflores

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/15/us/farrakhan-remarks-stir-anger.html

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2015/04/27/supreme-court-weighs-right-to-sue-in-spokeo-case/

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/million/mfm6.htm

http://www.mothersclub.org/enews/documents/June2014Newsletter.pdf

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/08/business/la-fiw-lazarus-20100608

http://community.spokeo.com/careers-in-data/

http://www.businessescalifornia.com/c/business/spokeo-inc/C2789488

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-sandra-bullock-stalker-bedroom-20140715-story.html

http://www.wgac.colostate.edu/stalking-statistics

http://www.sgvtribune.com/business/20150108/pasadena-based-spokeo-emerges-as-a-top-people-search-engine

https://cdt.org/press/center-for-democracy-and-technology-files-ftc-complaint-against-spokeo-inc/

http://blog.spokeo.com/2014/10/top-horror-movie-villains-who-share-real-people-names

http://blog.spokeo.com/2012/05/top-10-people-searches-celebrity-moms

http://www.sgvtribune.com/technology/20150528/qa-with-spokeo-founder-harrison-tang-on-funding-a-startup-challenges-and-secrets-of-success

http://community.spokeo.com/a-medieval-presentation-with-the-boys-girls-clubs-of-pasadena

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPLY06dahlY

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/video/11028763-activists-call-for-becks-resignation-after-pasadena-embezzlement-scandal/

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/government-and-politics/20150108/pasadena-city-manager-gave-pay-raises-to-department-heads-amid-embezzlement-probe

http://community.spokeo.com/football-night-with-the-city-of-pasadena/

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/spokeo-inc-v-robins/

http://www.wilx.com/home/headlines/90057932.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/technology/ftc-levies-first-fine-over-internet-data.html

https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/4067452-87104534

 

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