Spock’s Tips for Online Identity Protection

5 Ways to Protect Your Online Identity and Personal Privacy

Your personal information is online and getting more accessible every day. So how can you manage your online reputation and privacy in this cyber world where walls don’t exist?

Here are five ways in which Internet users can ensure that their online identity is correctly positioned and that their personal information is protected:

1. Take Responsibility for Your Online Actions

Most people believe that what they post on a blog or upload will stay hidden behind a wall and never be seen anywhere else on the web – This is false. Always make sure to read the terms of service on websites and social networks and assess their privacy control options. With over 500,000 people joining a social network every day, the number of people who post content about themselves on the web is increasing rapidly and so is the need for them to understand how the web works. If you post a picture of yourself on a public website, it’s as if you posted that picture on a billboard in Time Square. It becomes public content for anyone to see and copy. You really don’t want that recruiter to see your online party photos. So be careful of what you post and do online.

2. Track Your Online Profile

Search for your name – If you find something you do not like, then you can reach out to search engines like Spock, Google, Yahoo and MSN to remove that content from their index. But bear in mind that even if these search engines remove the content in question, it is most likely that that information was crawled by other services that might not have the same respect for personal privacy. Go to the source of the content itself and either remove it yourself (your public social network pages, blog posts) or ask the website administrators to assist you.

3. What Do You Do When Your Personal Information is Out There

Background checking is a billion dollar industry. There are dozens of companies out there that buy your personal data from phone companies, banks, even from your local county records office and sell it online to anyone willing to pay for the data. Once I did a search for myself on Google and to my surprise my former home address was indexed – This had been taken from a third party site. Not cool! At Spock we have a clear policy for people search to only display data that exists on the public web – We never show personally identifiable information (address, phone number, email, and so on) even if it is on public sites. These are steps I would recommend if you find yourself in the same predicament:

  1. Contact your bank, phone service provider, and your county records office – Be very clear to them that you do not want your private information sold to a third-party.
  2. Contact the site where you found your information and ask them to remove it immediately. Most of these companies do not want to deal with legal action and thus are fairly responsive in removing such data.
  3. Make it very clear to these sites that you do not want them to display your private information ever again.

4. Be Wary of Uncertified Websites

Too many people trust unknown websites and give them personal information for a “Free iPhone” and similar freebies. If you see an offer like this online from an uncertified site, then don’t fill out the form – Unless you want to get a lot of spam, phone calls, and random letters in the mail from cyber salesmen.

5. Even Passwords Need to be Protected

An area that many people tend to overlook is the passwords they use on websites. When choosing a password, these are my recommendations:

  1. Don’t use a password that contains any combination of your birthday, social security number, or phone number. There are too many websites out there with poor security protocols which can easily be hacked.
  2. Never use the same password twice. A common trick of hackers is to fool people into giving them their password – Ever get one of those phishing emails asking you to reset your password for Paypal? The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to use different passwords for different services.
  3. Change your passwords every six months.
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

The NBA on the Web & Spock

The NBA playoffs began over the weekend, and after one of the more compelling regular seasons in NBA history, the buzz surrounding the league is at an all time high. TVWeek.com, reported that the NBA on ABC earned a 2.5 rating, up 9% in households from 2007. ESPN and TNT showed similar growth with a 10% jump, earning a 1.1 rating for the season.

From a television ratings standpoint, NBA executives are without a doubt hoping that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers face off in the finals. While a Lakers and Celtics match up makes sense from a ratings perspective, Spock looked at some of the people search figures surrounding the sixteen playoff teams to see which two teams would generate the biggest fan buzz.

Individually, the most searched NBA players on Spock were Kobe Bryant and Yao MingShaquille O’Neil and Jason Kidd also saw a 5% bump in their search activity following their trades in March. On the retail side, Kevin Garnett lead all NBA players in jersey sales, followed by Kobe Bryant and Allen IversonGarnett who plays for  the Celtics, was part of the top team in jersey sales.  Surprisingly after the Celtics, the most jersey sales were generated by the Bulls, Knicks and Heat, three teams that did not make the playoffs. Thus, from a strictly individual perspective, it would appear that the general public would prefer to see the Celtics and the Lakers.

In analyzing the overall popularity from a team perspective, Spock looked at traffic and tagging on Spock, blogs, average attendance, percentage attendance, and Myspace fan groups. On Spock the Lakers lead all teams in popularity with 5,976 fan related tags.  The next most popular teams were the Utah Jazz, and  Detroit Pistons. The Atlanta Hawks were the least popular team on Spock. Within the blogging community the Boston Celtics were the clear winners with over 12,000 fan blogs. The next closest teams were the the Dallas Mavericks with over 10,000 fan blogs, and the Houston Rockets with over 8,400 fan blogs. The Philadelphia Sixers remained the least popular team with around 435 fan blogs. In average attendance Detroit led all teams with an average of 22,076 fans. The next closest teams were the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas, with the New Orleans Hornets averaged the least number of fans with 14,181.  While Detroit led in average attendance, Dallas led the league in percentage attendance with 105.07.  Looking at Myspace fan pages, the Lakers were again the most popular team with the two largest fan groups totaling 15,677 members.  As a whole, it would appear that while attendance figures are about even between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, there was a larger internet fan base for the Western Conference.  While this could be attributed to the Western Conference teams having more fans, this is likely due to the fact that with the exception of Detroit and Boston the Eastern Conference as whole was far less competitive compared to the rest of the league.

In the end while the network executives may favor a Boston vs Los Angeles match up, based on the people search figures, a Dallas vs Detroit NBA finals would draw the greatest fan buzz.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Spock’s Jay Bhatti on Reuters

Spock Co-Founder Jay Bhatti recently appeared on Reuters to discuss Spock and the notion behind people search. Spock which is unique in its focus on people search has received numerous accolades, including being recently named as one of the top 100 Rails Sites, and Wired Magazinestop 10 startups in 2008. In being asked about the notion behind competing with the likes of Google in the search market, Bhatti notes that while Google’s focus is on comprehensive document retrieval, people search in general is still fragmented across the web. Hoping to create a search result for everyone, Spock has focused on creating a site where you’ll be confident that the information about every “John Smith” is correct and relevant.

Click Here to check out the video

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Forbes Asks Jay Bhatti – What Microsoft Could Do For Yahoo! Employees

The Yahoo! Deal
What Microsoft Could Do For Yahoo! Employees
Wendy Tanaka04.11.08, 6:30 PM ET – PDF VersionLink to Article

Despite the flurry of activity from background players in theYahoo!Microsoft deal saga this week, many industry watchers still believe that the software giant may well prevail in its campaign to acquire Yahoo!. And typically, when one industry titan swallows another, job losses follow.

So should Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO – news– people ) employees be working on their résumés?

In this case, maybe not.

To achieve the promised “cost savings” that executives like to forecast when they’re acquiring a company, layoffs do often follow. In a late February speech at a Goldman Sachs (nyse: GS – news people ) investment conference conference, Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFTnews – people ) Executive Craig Mundie conceded that job losses would likely follow a Microsoft-Yahoo! combo. “The reason we think there’s synergies, actually, even in the R&D side, is that there’s a lot of redundant development going on,” Mundie said.

“The search engines are both being developed right next to each other in two different companies, and many other components, the whole advertising system. Every one of these things is being redundantly developed by two groups of very, very smart people. At the end of the day, you don’t need both. There may be great components from the two of them, and over time you could smoosh them together, but there’s a lot of fungibility in that part of the investment.”

But not all those losses are likely to happen in Sunnyvale, say industry watchers.

Microsoft’s primary reason for buying Yahoo! is to combine forces and go head-to-head with Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) in the burgeoning online advertising market. That means Microsoft will have to handle the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet portal’s workers with kid gloves if it wants to keep top talent and ensure a smooth integration of the two companies. “If Microsoft is going to treat Yahoo! people as second-class citizens, a lot of good people will leave,” says Kiumarse Zamanian, a former Yahoo! advertising executive.

In Yahoo!, Microsoft is gaining a tremendous asset: the world’s premier consumer Internet portal with 500 million visitors a month. “This is not a traditional acquisition. Microsoft needs to tread lightly,” says Burton Group analyst Ken Anderson. “They’re going after something more valuable than acquiring market share–Yahoo! is considered one of the most successful Internet start-ups.”

Indeed, Microsoft’s attempts to create blockbuster consumer and media properties through its MSN division have failed. “Microsoft is an engineering company. They don’t know how to sell ads,” IDC analyst Karsten Weide says. “What drives this business is media, understanding what advertisers and consumers want.”

While Yahoo! gives Microsoft a bounty of media and consumer assets, the software giant’s aggressive business style can capitalize on them, something Yahoo! couldn’t do. “It’s a Microsoft-run Yahoo!,” Anderson says. “Microsoft is very aggressive in how they run a corporation.”

So it’s Microsoft’s portal employees, not Yahoo! workers, that should be worrying about their jobs. “If I am an MSN online guy I’d be a little nervous,” Anderson says.

Jay Bhatti, co-founder of search engine start-up Spock and a former Microsoft product manager, still keeps in touch with workers in Redmond–and more than a few are concerned about their future. “A lot of people who work at MSN are saying, ‘What’s going to happen to us?’ ” Bhatti says.

Nevertheless, Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo!, announced Feb. 1, has created fear and loathing in the ranks of both companies. Since the announcement, Bhatti says the number of résumés Spock has received from Microsoft and Yahoo! workers has tripled. To shore up lackluster financials, Yahoo! laid off 1,000 of its 14,000 workers in February.

Even though Microsoft has said it will keep the Yahoo! brand after the acquisition, some aren’t convinced Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and his gang will stick to their promise. Zamanian, the former Yahoo! ad executive who is now vice president of Glam Media’s advertising platform, notes: “There’s a joke: What do you get if you merge Microsoft and Yahoo!? Microsoft.’ “

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Top Bloggers on the Web

In many ways the term blogger is now synonymous with journalist or author. While the title blogger doesn’t quite have the same ring as author or news columnist, in many ways a blogger is just as credible to the public, and is exposed to a wider audience. With the advent of online publications, the real difference between Peter Kings Sports Illustrated column and Perez Hilton‘s daily thoughts on celebrity mishaps is thatPerez instantly displays feedback. Perez Hilton, who is arguably the most famous celebrity blogger, is part of an elite network of bloggers who have gained fame through publishing on the Internet. Using Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs, and several other sites, Spock looked into who the most popular blogs and bloggers are.

An initial assessment showed that a majority, and in the case of Technorati, 62% of the top blogs were technology related. Breaking down Technorati’s list further showed 35% fell under the category of a traditional blog, which discussed several different topics and had a mixture of rants, reviews, photos, etc. The other key demographics were news blogs which made up 15%, celebrity news at a surprisingly low 7%, and social networking blogs filled out the remaining 5%. Among Technorati’s top 10 blogs, seven were collaborative sites, leaving Michael Arrington,Arianna Huffington, and Beppe Grillo as the blogs in the top 10 maintained by one figure. Overall the top five blogs were TechcrunchThe Huffington PostEngadgetGizmodo, and Ars Technica.

Categorically, the top news blogger was Arianna Huffington, for technology Michael Arrington, for celebrities Perez Hilton, and “traditional blogger” was Beppe Grillo. Despite their name recognition, searching and ranking the top bloggers was difficult in the sense that a people searchfor celebrity blogger on Google isn’t likely to lead you to Perez Hilton’s site. Spock, which has links to millions of people with blogs, is one of the few sites that can easily search people and connect you to their blogs. In searching on Spock, due to the tagging system, the term blogger and another tag was more likely to return top bloggers such as Robert Scoble, or Seth Godin, than blogging sites such as blogger or wordpress

With the Pew Internet & American Life Project predicting that 39% of US internet users regularly blogging, it’s likely that competition for blog notoriety and monitization of blogs will increase. Because of that fact, sites such as Spock and other news aggregating sites will become necessary for bloggers to build up their reader base.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

BetaNews Interviews Jay Bhatti

People-search startup Spock.com seeks partners, maybe with Google

By Jacqueline Emigh | Published April 8, 2008, 10:35 AM | PDF | Link To Article

New search engine venture Spock.com is using a Linux-based software architecture to save money on development. But it’s also showing some ingenuity with its business model, focusing on partnership rather than competition.

NEW YORK CITY (BetaNews) – Now in beta since August of last year, Spock.com specializes in “people searches” across the names of both “ordinary people” and celebrities, said Jay Bhatti, the company’s VP for marketing, services, and user experience, during a press briefing last week.

Over the past eight months, the Web site has handled 30 million search queries, with its query volume going up at the rate of about 30% per month. Each day, Spock indexes about 2 million search results. On average, more than 2,000 new users sign up each day.

The search engine field might be crowded, but the market is ripe for “people search,” according to Bhatti, a former Microsoft product manager. “The top three search engines have reported that 23 percent of their query volume is name search,” he told reporters.

Although Spock.com isn’t alone in the people search segment, Bhatti contended that Spock’s results are more comprehensive and better organized. “That’s largely because we have about six engineers who just sit in a room and do nothing but work on writing search algorithms all day,” he revealed, adding that out of Spock’s staff of 40, 36 employees are engineers, and the other four are marketers.

But one of the first tasks faced by Bhatti and the company’s other co-founder, Spock.com CEO Jaideep Singh, was on the marketing side.

“We wanted the Spock.com domain name,” according to Bhatti. One reason, he explained, is that the co-founders could see ‘Spock’ working well as a verb. “‘Spock me,'” he illustrated.

“But the domain name was held by the people around Dr. [Benjamin] Spock, the baby doctor. And we also had to bid against the Star Trek folks to get it,” Bhatti recalled.

Since going live, Spock has been talking with Google about a deal around AdWords, as well as with DoubleClick — the display advertising company Google has just acquired — and with MSN and Yahoo about other possible agreements,

“The social networking sites are really interested, too,” according to Bhatti.

Named one of the “ten start-ups to pay attention to in 2008” by Wired magazine, Spock has received funding from Clearstone Venture Partners — where Spock co-founder Singh was previously an early stage VC — as well as from Opus Capital and individual investors.

In a demo, Bhatti showed how Spock.com deploys spiders to crawl the Internet for information, taking data from social networks such as MySpace and Friendster as well as other sites and using it to create profiles about people. Spock has indexed about one-fifth of the Web so far, he estimated.

The indexed information can be searched by name, e-mail address, location, or tags, for example. Users can view “news about” and “Web sites about” a person, in addition to “related people.” And they can also contribute to Spock.com by producing their own profiles and voting on which photos are best.

Spock.com also uses custom algorithms developed by a team of researchers, faculty and students from Germany’s Bauhaus University geared to solving the problem of “entity resolution,” or how to distinguish among multiple people with the same name, such as singer Michael Jackson and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson.

Those custom algorithms may need some tweaking, as BetaNews discovered for itself in a check of Spock.com’s own profile for the latter Mr. Jackson this morning.

In a challenge posed by Spock, the team from Bauhaus won $50,000 for their solution, which “maps named entities from documents to the correct person,” Bhatti told BetaNews. Spock’s challenge received 1,500 entries from five different continents.

Meanwhile, all of Spock.com’s systems — including its Apache Web servers and OpenSQL database — rely on Linux and open source software, despite the fact that Bhatti formerly worked at Microsoft as a product manager for software servers.

“I’m really finding value in open source software, and I’ve told people at Microsoft that, too. A lot of start-ups couldn’t afford to get off the ground without it,” Bhatti said.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Spock.com Pacts with Google, Plays with Ad Networks

Clickz Spock.com Pacts with Google, Plays with Ad Networks
by Rebecca Lieb | April 7, 2008 | PDF of Article

By Rebecca Lieb, ClickZ, Apr 7, 2008

People search engine Spock.com, launched last autumn, just became the newest member of Google’s Search Network, joining portals and search engines such as Ask.com, AOL and Lycos in displaying Google’s AdWords ads.

“We just finalized the paperwork and are working on the technical end,” Spock co-founder Jay Bhatti told ClickZ News.

Spock is also in talks with virtually all the major ad networks including the Yahoo Publisher Network, Glam, Tribal Fusion, Pubmatic, Advertising.com, and DoubleClick, as it experiments with contextual and display advertising on the site. Bhatti expects a formal launch of display ads in “two to three months.”

Spock (the name alludes not to “Star Trek,” but instead is an acronym for “single point of contact by keyword”) claims to currently serve some 6 million search queries per month, with query volume growing at a 30 percent monthly rate. According to comScore, Spock.com had 275,000 unique U.S. visitors and 601,000 worldwide in February 2008.

Its spiders crawl people data from disparate sources on the Web including social networks, directories, and sites, to create profiles of people that are searchable by multiple attributes, e.g. tags, location, name, and e-mail address.

Users contribute greatly to these profiles, creating new profiles and content on existing profiles, and “voting” on content already posted.

“We’re not a social network,” insists Bhatti, an important differentiator for a property intent on competing with MySpace and Facebook for advertiser dollars. “Intent and relationships are hard to capture on social networks.” Spock also screens its entries for the potentially offensive content that raises adjacency flags with brand advertisers on social networks.

Spock claims 30 percent of search volume is people related, and queries are more or less evenly split between queries for the famous and ordinary Joes. Currently, Spock is testing various ads on the voting pages for celebrity photos. Google’s ads are in the right column, display ads at the top and bottom of the page.

Bhatti hopes to sell advertisers on reaching women, who conduct over 60 percent of celebrity searches, per company data. “We may not have a lot of women who are signed up and are contributors,” he said, “but they’re a large portion of the searchers on Spock.”

Down the road, plans are to target ads to more descriptors in profiles, such as local information. The company has also had preliminary talks with major brand advertisers — Bhatti named Nike and Target — regarding potential awareness campaigns.

“When someone’s looking at Tiger Woods and are coming from Germany, wouldn’t it be great if they can see a Nike ad? ” he asks, not so rhetorically.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Spock’s Jay Bhatti on ABC News

Abc_news Ahead of the Curve: The Website Spock.com is intent on finding people
by Yuni de Nies | April 2, 2008 | PDF of Article

Spock co-founder Jay Bhatti recently appeared on ABC’s Ahead of the Curve to discuss among other things Spock, and the notion behind people search.  Spock, which is one of the leading people search applications on the Web has been at the forefront of a new market designed at specializing in search. Some remain skeptical at how something as specific, and potentially trivial as people search fits into the overall mindset and actions of the typical Internet user. Yet there is overwhelming evidence that people related web activity is among the most common and fastest growing web based industries. With more people than ever actively using Social Networks, locating relevant connections to people has become more important than ever.

Check out the video and let us know what you think about people search and what direction you see the Web going.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

TheDeal.com Interviews Jay Bhatti

The_deal Spock’s Bhatti a people person
by David Shabelman | April 1, 2008 | PDF of Article

Thedeal.com recently interviewed Jay Bhatti. Click here to see the article.

[Posted on April 1, 2008 – 3:54 PM]

bhatta1.gifJay Bhatti is not afraid to say the “G” word. In fact, Bhatti, co-founder of people search engine Spock Networks Inc., goes out of his way to compare his company to Google Inc. [GOOG], perhaps with the hope that his company will someday be able to capture a small but lucrative piece of the search market.

“People searches are a very huge category, but it’s extremely fragmented. It’s like what search was like before Google came out,” Bhatti says. “What we want to do is more sophisticated, which is finding Web pages about people, excluding the other things and just concentrating on people.”

But Spock goes beyond just people search. It also combines a social networking function that personalizes search results to include information about friends and colleagues and where they might be on the Web. And in the vein of Wikipedia, it allows users to add or modify information that Spock finds about them on the Internet to ensure accuracy.

“We expected it to be popular, but we didn’t know what aspect would be popular,” Bhatti says. “We found people were interested in the people they cared about and the news about what those people are doing.”

Spock has raised $8.5 million in capital, including a $7 million first round offunding in December 2006 from Clearstone Venture Partners and Opus Capital Ventures, but Bhatti says he’s ready to put out “feelers to investors” in the next few weeks.

“If we really want to go after Google, we need to invest in the $10 million to $15 million range and hire three or four `rock star’ engineers,” Bhatti says.

When asked about the key challenges facing Spock, Bhatti says hiring talent tops the list.

“It’s a challenge most other startups face, hiring great people because there are just so few of them out there,” he says. “And we’re very picky, and we have to be picky because search is a very capital-intensive behavior. We’re trying to assemble a top-notch team.”

But Spock also must find a way to monetize its search results. Though the company has not disclosed how it will make money, Bhatti said within the next few months search results will have rich, contextual advertisements along with banner ads. He said it expects to have a lead generation revenue model “down the road.”

Bhatti also has to make some decisions down the road regarding whether Spock will need to team up with a larger company or continue to go at it alone. Bhatti said he could envision Spock as part of a larger search engine, with users clicking on a tab to conduct a people search. He says the company also could succeed as a standalone if it can get even a small percentage of the overall search business, considering every 1% of the search market is worth $3 billion.

“Thirty percent of Web search is people search, whether people are searching for celebrities or people they know,” he says. “Even if you capture 1% or 2%, you are a highly valuable company.” – David Shabelman

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn