So that title might be a little harsh, but let me explain why that keeps jumping into my head.
This morning I was reading about an API (which for any non techie types is just a service that returns some data to programmers) available that returns as much possible information as can be found on the internet based on a persons email address.
So if I put in mine, it just returns the Gravatar I use for the comments here. If I put in my Willshaw Media email, it gives back the Twitter account picture and username. So neither of those return much data. Also it told me I’m a female living in Arizona. So not always accurate.
But I’ve tried it with a few other email address, and some of the results are quite impressive. Depending on how you’ve set yourself up on the internet, if you’ve used the same email address and made it public, it can find twitter, facebook, lastfm, myspace profiles, associated images, homepages, your sex, full name, address, phone number etc.
It all depends on how public you’ve been, but if you’ve been a bit lax here and there, then this site pulls it all together and makes it really easy to get hold of a lot of information. So that’s why it scares me a little.
The thing is though this information is all publicly available already, and Google does a pretty good job with it’s results page of piecing together bits of information just based on a persons name. I had 6 people over for dinner the other night, and I went around the table, Googled there names and read out various bits of info on them, addresses, flat mates, previous occupants of their homes, phone numbers and job titles. The best one was a very vulgar and rude definition of a friend on UrbanDictionary.com
So I suppose it’s not really scary, yet, but the thought of services out there that just make it so free and easy to get hold of consolidated data about people and there lives seems weird to me.
But with the internet, that’s just going to become more and more prominent. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m now immersed in a world of free range information, that I can’t keep control of even if it is about me.
Anyway, it’s quite a cool service, FullContact.com, and I could see it being useful by helping to integrate the back end of a website with others, making life easier for the user by having data pre-populated and stored, so you don’t have to log in again or retype information out on every site you go to.
You can test out the service, I think your first 1000 requests are free, then you have to start paying.
The data get sent back as JSON, XML or HTML, and the HTML creates a nice little profile box with links to all the websites it’s managed to find data on.
Anyway, it’s getting bloody late and I’m probably not making much sense, so I’ll go now.