123People Scares the Innovation Out of Me

March 25, 2010

As a proponent of new technologies that make it simple and convenient to find information online, I am struggling with this one.  And as I question the people around me, it seems that they are struggling with it as well.  Most people are a bit put off by the service, yet others think it’s an innovative step forward in connecting people.

I am talking of course about 123People.com.  The two year old “person search service” has people questioning the now age old principle of identity and privacy in the digital age.

123people is basically an aggregator of sorts, which locates and collects information on people.  Anything online appears to be fair game in their algorithm.  It looks at everything from Google images to LinkedIn profiles, blog posts and articles to social networks, and everything that falls in between.

A simple search of my name brings up images, blog posts, an old address, and my old company and work number.  And I have to say that when I first found it, I was stuck in between feelings of disgust that all that information was out there, and feelings of amazement at how easy they made the process.  For those people with little to no online presence of their own, 123people has found a way to scrape together anything that exists, and land one of the top results in a Google search for their names.

Of course we all know that in this day and age, privacy is a hot button issue, and will be for some time.  Our lives on the internet are public, whether we want them to be or not.  But whereas without 123people, someone looking up information on me would have to put in a little extra effort, perform several search queries, look at a couple of different sites, and put it all together; 123people has put it all in one place for you.  It’s more than a little scary.

If you take a look at the 123people blog, they’ll have you believe that people search is incredible, and can only mean good things for the world.  I have to think that more of us believe this type of service is more trouble than they’ve let on.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.  If you haven’t done a search for yourself, check it out and then post your comments below.

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