Nearly two years after the launch of a Web site offering instant access to addresses, ages and telephone numbers, consumers remain outraged over the open access to their personal information.
The site (ZabaSearch.com) is one of the most widely known of numerous online databases that allow anyone surfing the Internet to confirm the birth month and year, address and phone number of just about anyone, free of charge. With a single click, the site puts select data about friends, relatives and strangers right at your fingertips.
It also provides links to even more comprehensive sources of information that are available for varying fees.
"I don't understand how this site can post information without the individual's consent," complained New Yorker Velma Baker. Tom Mugan of New York called the Web site "very scary," adding, "With very little effort, someone can steal your identity."Zaba Inc. launched the site in early 2005 with little marketing or publicity. Within weeks, it emerged as one of the most comprehensive personal-data search engines on the Net. Since then, both traffic to the site and concern about the information it offers has apparently multiplied.
As word about the site circulates in one unsolicited e-mail after another, consumers rush to the site to check out what data the company has on file about them. More often than not, they don't like what they find.
As Diane and John McCarron of New Jersey explained, "This is an invasion of our privacy, and we don't know what we can do to stop it."The concern, of course, is understandable. It's unnerving to realize that your address or age is a click away from anyone with the curiosity to uncover it. However, all of the information provided by Zaba and other online databases is from publicly available government records and commercial sources.
These online people-search companies use a mix of public records - everything from court records to the change-of-address cards you file with the post office - to generate digital dossiers that are legal to post under existing state and federal laws.
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