Last Updated Sep 2, 2009 7:50 AM EDT
He found his technique, he says, when his children started selling things on Craigslist. Great for cash flow, not so great if you're worried about being exposed to loonies. (Sorry, Craigslist, you know I love you, but you do harbor your fair share of nut jobs). His solution: a social media gizmo called Spokeo:
This is how it works: You enter the email address of a person.... Spokeo then searches the public records of fifty social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Amazon Gifts, and the blogosphere. Then Spokeo produces a report of matches that it's found.
In particular, take a look at the social-network portion of the report. If you're not a member, the report tells you how many social network Spokeo found the email address on, but not which ones. To see that information, you have to pay $2.95/month for one year or $4.95/month for three months.Sure you could just trawl through all 50 sites yourself, but Spokeo does seem like a a time saver if you're in a situation where Google stalking feels appropriate. Whether you use this particular tool or not though, the fact remains that the wealth of information people volunteer about themselves online may be a great way to screen potential employers or work partners and look for any red flags before you commit to a gig or a project. How about user reviews: have any of you out there used Spokeo? Have you found the web generally useful for avoiding nutcases or is this sort of research just invasive?
What happens if Spokeo cannot find any matches for an email address? That may be the scariest case--the person may really be hiding something--or simply has several email addresses or no life.