The Internet has already busted the extremely creepy people search engine Spock. It's bad enough that the site trawls social networking profiles, amassing every personal statement you've ever made online. Now it's an outright slander brigade. A few high school students who used a Spock-built Facebook application that generate amusing stories, a la the old Mad Libs fill-in-the-blank books, were surprised to learn they had been tagged as a "fat, retarded pimp who likes screwing prostitutes," or as "a man-whore who hangs out at stranger's houses and drinks rum and Coke." (Sounds like some bloggers we know, but no matter.) Those, however, are the least of Spock's scary lies.
Blogger John Aravosis learned that he ranked in the top search results for pedophile, presumably, he notes, because he covered the Mark Foley trial. Scary! After hearing this, I prudently checked the Spock profile for Mary Jane Irwin. My adoring fan Dave McClure, who's gone from playing Facebook fanboy to being a Spock advisor, has tagged me as both a "Luddite" and a "Spock lover." Both completely untrue. He's also tagged colleague Megan McCarthy as "naughty" and "likes twins," among other things. Apparently accurate, so score one for McClure and Spock.
As Wired News writer Dan Tynan points out, the truly scary thing is that, unlike Facebook or MySpace, you have very limited control over your Spock profile. Claiming it does little more than alert you to changes. It does nothing to safeguard your online reputation. Users can post disparaging tags to their hearts' content. Your only hope is that enough people will vote the offending tag as inaccurate to warrant its removal, or Spock will favor your request for deletion (as it has done in the Mad Libs and Aravosis cases).
Spock CEO Jaideep Singh's basic excuse is that this is the Web, and that you should get over it. "The best way to ensure that Spock will not index Web documents about you is to remove all documents about you from the Web," he says. At this point, I don't think that's even possible. But the least we can ask is that those documents be interpreted accurately. A better idea? Remove Spock from the Web, until it deploys its robots more responsibly.