September 4, 2007 5:57 PM PDT

People search engine Rapleaf revises privacy policy

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Similarly, Facebook's terms of service state that all content on the site is the property of Facebook and its users. "No site content may be modified, copied, distributed, framed, reproduced, republished, downloaded, displayed, posted, transmitted or sold in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, without the company's prior written permission."

Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker added, "If someone gathers Facebook user data by circumventing our privacy controls, then they are in violation of our terms of service." She did not directly address whether Facebook executives believe Rapleaf violated those terms.

Hoffman said he didn't believe his company's practices were in violation of these terms of service. He added that any search engine that indexes profile pages of MySpace or Facebook violates the user agreements of these sites. "Almost everything you do on these sites is against these terms of service because they're written in such a strict way," he said.

For example, MySpace blocked Photobucket videos and slide shows from being uploaded to its service earlier this year, before eventually announcing that it had acquired the company.

Privately held Rapleaf, whose investors include Facebook backer and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, launched in 2006 as a reputation-lookup service. But over the last year, it evolved into a three-pronged service. The first prong is Rapleaf, a people search engine and social network for managing your reputation. Next is Upscoop.com, a similar site that makes it possible to discover, en masse, which social networks people in your contact list belong to. To use Upscoop, you must first give the site the username and password of your e-mail account at Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL.

The third business is TrustFuse, which for marketing purposes "perform(s) deep searches on people to enrich data on your users," according to TrustFuse's previous Web site. In other words, TrustFuse packages information culled from sites into a profile and sells the profile to marketers.

According to Rapleaf's new privacy policy, "part of Rapleaf's business model is to help gather information for our clients and give them an opportunity to give their users a better user experience. Rapleaf clients provide e-mail address information on their users for Rapleaf to collect and append data."

That information, including e-mail addresses, is kept secure, according to the company. But Rapleaf said it may collect or maintain such data as the person's e-mail address, physical address and phone number, "demographic, psychographic/interests, friend map/network, Web sites used and other social Web data." It shows links to people's information on Amazon.com wish lists, Bebo, Facebook, MySpace, Classmates, Hi5 and Friendster, among other sites.

EPIC's Rotenberg questions data collection about members of these social networks because many of the users are kids. He added that in the 1960s, when companies first started offering "reputation services," which were called credit reports, "Congress stepped in and passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act to establish some transparency and accountability."

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11 comments

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What's the email address for getting data removed?
This line in the article attracted my interest.

"The updated Rapleaf privacy policy lets people opt out of its
system by sending an e-mail to the company."

What's the address??

Thanks.
Posted by pencoyd (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shame on them
This is my .02 for what's it worth. I have already had some dealings with Rap Leaf. It seems as though any one can start information about people on this site and trust me when I tell you this some people are taking advantage of this and trying to tear people up on this site. My brother had a problem with this site a few weeks back someone added his name to the site and then proceeded to say bad things about him. I think this site should be shut down and anyone doing anything simliar should also be shut down this is unacceptable and the folks over at Rap Leaf should be ashamed of themselves for even allowing this type of thing to happen.

I will admit though that I wrote them an email and in a short period of time they did take all information related to my brother and myself off of their site. The email as asked in an earlier comment is abuse@rapleaf.com.

Pokeypup
Posted by pokeypup (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
rap leaf is just a fly by night company.
What about at news dot com? Are people allowed scan data and use it as they wish for commercial purposes?
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And what does this have to do with anything?
Articles on News.com are copyrighted and retains those rights. You do have fair use.

This is completely different from a website that captures your personal data in an effort to then sell it to an unrelated third party so that they can better target their e-mail spam campaign.

As I said in an earlier post on the first article, RapLeaf is only half of the problem of spam. While they "claim" not to divulge your e-mail address, they will divulge your personal information that they capture.

Someone could buy a cd of 1 billion e-mail addresses (or some other ridiculous high number of e-mail addresses gleaned from the net) and then try to validate them against RapLeaf.

You'll have no way of tracking back how these companies got your personal information. So RapLeaf's new "privacy policy" and their "opt-out" is a hollow statement. Do you still trust them?

Again, avoid at all costs.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Link Flag
Could be grounds for a class action?
It would appear that these policies clearly violate many TOS agreements (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.).

What they are doing may be clever... but it is also flat-out wrong.
Posted by directorblue (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Round 2 of AVOID AT ALL COSTS...
I was surprised that no one really caught this.
The first article there were only a handful of comments, including mine.

This company should clearly be avoided at all costs.
"Opt out"??? C'mon. How do you know or trust them?
Remember that they are marketing your bio information and not your e-mail. (Or so they claim.) This means that the company already has your e-mail address (From whatever source) and that you have no way of knowing how they got any of your personal information.

Nor do you have any way of knowing if this company really didn't sell your e-mail address to a third party.

Clearly they are motivated on making a quick buck and don't consider anything close to ethics or the law in their business plan. There is no excuse for their actions.

As to suing them, that's up to the companies' who's TOS/AUP they violated.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'll still use Rapleaf
The fact that Rapleaf responds to users' feedback and suggestions so swiftly tells me that they are pretty responsible. Almost all websites out there collect your information in some way or another. I don't think signing up on MySpace or Facebook is any more dangerous than signing up on Rapleaf. In fact, many social networks, notably Tagged and Flixster, trick people to send "invitations" to emails in their address book. And Rapleaf doesn't seem to do that.

I don't exactly know how Rapleaf collects their information. However, look at other search engines like Wink, they all seem to do the same thing.
Posted by skyper (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I dont care about the Marketers so much
I don't have to buy what they want to sell.

But given out government's increasing intrusiveness, this Administration could use such a database to find out that a prominent activist or critic was, let's say, a fan of S&M videos. Or a member of an alcoholics online support group. This info would, of course, be accidentally leaked to a media always on the lookout for the seamy.

If you ever wanted to run for Any political office, you would either have to be a Sunday school teacher or stay off the Internet entirely. The scum who work at the politics of personal assassination can make Anything look bad.

They used to only go after the big guys, but in this era of increasingly targeted harassment, who knows how low they would go? Maybe to street-level activists. It might only take an email to their employer to get them in trouble.
Posted by cybervigilante (529 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But what about stupid emails?
I'm just kind of amazed anyone would give their email password out. They could read every bit of personal or financial mail you send, including the dumb stuff. And don't tell me no on ever writes something stupid they would never want on the evening news ;')
Posted by cybervigilante (529 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Rather, Rapleaf may use the e-mail search features at these social networks to find people's profiles." - if it was using the email search facility then access to "private" profiles - those with security features set, would not be allowed. How would it be able to access the information of such users?! There has been no mention of its inability to access "private" profiles!!
Posted by imaksha (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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