Saturday 26 August 2006

Oh, Just What I Need, More Stalkers

This is a post about the way we define personal versus how we define private.

I log on this morning and Faruk IMs me a link to my “page” on AboutUs.Org.

AboutUS is apparently some kind of “who’s who” of the Web. The disturbing issue is how much personal information is gathered on a page, including address, phone numbers, and maps to your place.

Social networking encourages us to share information. My thought is that AboutUs isn’t going to XFN or RSS or Technorati or respective networks such as 9rules to ask for information.

Rather, information is gathered independently and apparently via domain registration information. Which, as most know, if you want to make contact information on domain names private, you’re going to likely pay more money and make it more difficult for legitimate people to find you.

I think AboutUS is creating a blurry line as it gathers all this information into one grouping. I’m not the only one who is concerned and I think a solid conversation is in order.

There’s a boundary here that even I, Ms. Spill-it-all-Personal can argue for. Some of life’s concerns are personal. Some are private.

Personal. Private. There is a distinction of great importance between these two issues.

Any network that decides on its own to determine how, where and when information that should be private is made public is challenging a very sensitive concern.

Here in the U.S. I cannot control certain information being published about what I own, what I owe, and where I live.

Otherwise, that information, which to my way of thinking should be private anyway, is already public. It isn’t as easy to get to, though, and hasn’t been for a long time.

AboutUs changes that, or tries to.

I don’t mind people wanting to get to know me, but I do mind making it easier for even the best of guests to show up at my doorstep uninvited.

The good news is, at least for me, none of the information on AboutUs regarding my real location is quite up to date. Otherwise, who knows? John Dvorak might have even showed up at my door.

AboutUs: Think about what you’re doing. Readers, what do you think? Check it out and let’s discuss where the lines really should be drawn between what is personal and what is truly private.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 12:04 | Comments (68)

Comments (68)

  1. I really think much of the discussion and comments I have read here about are faulty and contain very little logic. and agree with the above comments if you are concerned with privacy!

  2. I found out today that my website is listed on AboutUs. I figured, “Oh, odd, I’ll just contact them and have them take it off since I didn’t authorize them to add my domain to their little list in the first place. Shouldn’t be a big deal.”

    I’ve dealt with that before and every other website I’ve approached that had, independent of me, gathered information on my domain were more than happy to remove my domain when asked, but not AboutUs.

    When I entered live chat with them and asked how to remove my domain from their index, they said they can’t remove it. I asked why and they pointed me to this…

    “We choose not to completely remove pages from our system because AboutUs aims to be a guide to websites, and deleting a page would make us that much more incomplete.”

    Oh, well, god forbid they be “incomplete”. Wouldn’t want that, so by all means, just keep a page displaying information and images from and about my domain without my permission, whatever will help you keep your index full, right? That’s the important thing!


    Now, if it was just a website that created a page for my domain and populated it only with information grabbed from my server, that wouldn’t be as big of a deal because all of the information in essence would stem from me. Even if outdated, it would still be content directly copied from my server.

    However, because it uses a wiki system, anyone and everyone can add whatever information they want that doesn’t even need to be validated, including personal comments, which to me don’t belong on an indexing site.

    I wanted to at least try to compromise, so I said, “Okay. If you won’t take my page off, do you have a setting where only the site owner can edit the information on the page?”

    Their response?

    “No, that’s not how our policies work.”

    They then went on to describe the different features I can make use of to keep track of my page on there if I register on their site. I stated that I shouldn’t have to register on someone else’s site in order to control what information is displayed concerning mine.

    They stated they had to go to dinner.

    I’m so sick of this wiki crap. Sure, it made wikipedia very popular, but that doesn’t mean every site in existence has to say, “Hey, let’s all have pages that aren’t trustworthy because the information on them comes from everyone!”

    And at least wikipedia doesn’t allow opinions, trying it’s best to structure the site in an encyclopedia manner.

    I’m sorry, but AboutUs and websites like it need to fade away. I don’t mind wanting to build an index, but I will never support something that doesn’t give you the CHOICE of whether or not you want to opt out of it.

    They also said that their bots respect the bot blocks that you specify in your robots.txt file, but the information and images they have on there from my site were taken from portions of my site blocked by my robots.txt, so go figure.

    I’m just really aggravated by the entire thing. I found one domain’s page on there and it was just filled with comments from people bashing it. Comments that can be posted at any time and don’t need to be confirmed at all.

    Imagine someone who just doesn’t like you getting everyone they know to go to your AboutUs page and post negative comments just to deter people from visiting your site or – if you’re a business – ever working with you? Now imagine that most people don’t even know they have a page on AboutUs.

    How do you combat something you aren’t even aware of?

    Needless to say, I’m not surprised I found someone else complaining about them.

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