The new people search iam.no finds information about Norwegian people. All one has to do is enter a name, and it finds information about the person in question. It displays information like name, adress, telephone number, birthday, relevant search hits, tax information, images etc.
When this service was released it created a storm of negative feedback claiming they disregarded the personal information act (loosely translation from personopplysningsloven). There has been at least one article where the availability of personal details have resulted in harassing calls from bullies for an underaged girl.
If one looks under the hood of what this search engine does, it only uses information freely available on the internet already. It collects information from several public sources and merges it to a public profile. Freely available for everybody to search for. iam.no is not inventing the wheel again, it just knows where to gather information from. Wether iam.no is allowed to gather that freely available information is another issue I will not address, but if we are to criticize anything it has to be that our addresses, phone numbers and tax information is allowed to be published online by selected providers. Going after iam.no is just to miss the real target.
I believe some of the reason iam.no receives so much negative feedback, is because people suddenly realizes that a lot of their anonymity on the internet is gone. When we are born we receive a social security number for the state we were born in and we automatically have a public persona. That persona is becoming more and more extended into the internet. Services like iam and pipl is just extensions of it. To expect that our existence begins in this world, but stops online is futile.
Search specifically targeting living people is not a new concept. The search engine pipl.com has already been around for a while doing the exact same thing. pipl.com looks for information on different sources like amazon.com and facebook. There is nothing that could stop pipl.com from collecting the same information that iam.no does. The difference is that pipl.com probably doesn’t know where to look for norwegian data, while iam.no does.
The biggest difference pipl.com and iam.no has is that on iam.no it’s not possible to see where they have collected the information from, which is a problem. When viewing information about oneself, the importance to be able to control that information is key. Since iam.no only uses information from other sites one has to guess where the information comes from (which in most cases shouldn’t be difficult).
When I did a search on myself on iam.no, I was startled to see that all contact information on me was available, adress, telephone number etc. I have been unlisted for years, so it came as a surprise. I recently changed jobs and my phone is usually company registered, so that explained why I was listed.
On pipl.com I found that my amazon.com account was public with my former living location and wishlist.
And these two incidents are the reason why I’m happy for services like iam and pipl. They make it easier to discover and control the information that is available on me online. I have a multitude of registrations on websites I no longer can remember. I even discovered a powerpoint introduction I have written for a company I worked for many years ago, freely available on the internet. I can’t remember writing it, but my name is on it. If services like pipl and iam can make me aware of it, I’m just happy for it.
I have been in touch with my phone company and gotten unlisted from the phone book (telefonkatalogen.no) and within 10 days my details should be removed (and one don’t need a secret number to get unlisted). My amazon account is no longer public.
When we realize that we are public people on the internet just as we are in real life, we also have to learn the importance of controlling what information is available on us and what we make available. The general public is just beginning to get that lesson.