Although I’ve never been all that huge on the social networking phenomenon, I have been known to dabble in things like Friendster and Facebook, especially when they can help increase RSS subscribers and drive traffic to my blog. I remember when I first came in contact with the Internet, I was wary about placing any kind of personal information out there, because there’s no telling who’s lurking around the corner, reading up on your profile or checking out your likes and dislikes. This issue has really come to light recently, because of the all the child predators who surf MySpace posing as 14-year-old girls, for example.
At the same time, there is value in connecting with old friends. I know that it’s a total trip for me when I stumble across an old high school classmate or a fellow co-worker from my earlier days. Facebook has been great for that, but not everyone I know is on there. What if I want to contact someone that I haven’t seen in ages and I have no idea where they are? I could try using Google or searching for them on Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, and the tons of other social networking sites out there, but why would I go through all that trouble when something like PeekYou can do that for me. If they hadn’t ordered this ReviewMe, I would have never known who they were. What’s more, I wouldn’t have realized just how visible I am on the web.
What is PeekYou?
PeekYou bills itself as the smartest way to find people online. It’s supposed to be like the ultimate white pages, helping you find just about anyone who has any sort of online presence. It’s been in beta for a few months, but during that time, they’ve been able to get over 50 million profiles (according to their press release). Some are more complete than others, but that would largely depend on how active the person is on the web and how “out there” they are willing to be. You can people search by simply placing a first and last name (or even a username) in the appropriate fields, or you can narrow it down by geographic location.
On the front page, you’ll see the ability to “peek” by country. They’ve set up portals for finding people in the USA, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, and China, as well as Canada.
Interestingly, when I hit up the Canada page, the first name that comes up is Tyler Cruz, a fellow BCer and blogger. Initially, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to how they’ve ordered the profiles. They’re not alphabetical or anything like that, but upon further inspection, it seems to be based on how big this person’s online presence is. This is represented by a number of icons that represent various websites with this person in it. With Tyler, for example, you’ll see links to his blog, PublisherSpot, MMAForums, and so on.
Why PeekYou is Scary
PeekYou blends together the power of a phone book with an Internet search engine, helping you find just about anyone on the web. This sounds fine for people with good intentions, but it also sounds like a breeding ground for stalkers. Normally, I’m not the type to talk about banning certain things from showing up in MySpace or Facebook, because users have the ability to block public access to their profiles and so on, but with an amalgamation of information — like that found on PeekYou — it gets a little scary and a little more out of your control. You can register and gain a little control, but even then, it still sounds like scary stuff. I didn’t realize how easy it was for them to link together your various accounts.
Now, I don’t know if it’s because they ordered a paid review from me, but my PeekYou profile is pretty extensive, with direct links to my profiles on Digg, MyBlogLog, Facebook, Friendster, and more. They were even able to pull my bios from LoveToKnow Corporation, one of my freelance writing clients. Thankfully, the first couple of links are to this blog and my freelance writing site. Oh, and in case you’re curious, the search brought up 15 Michael Kwans.
Too Powerful or a Little Biased
Realistically, I think that my online presence is about on par with Ed Lau, the guy with whom I will be starting a hockey blog. When I used the PeekYou tool to try and find him, it came back with two results and neither is the Ed that I know. It found John Chow, but had no record of Stephen Fung.
In this way, the system is a little flawed, because it has a heavy emphasis on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, grabbing those profiles without too much trouble. Even prominent bloggers like Darren Barefoot aren’t represented in the PeekYou database. For this reason, I’m starting to think that they beefed up my profile page just for this review.
I see potential in PeekYou and I appreciate the clean, almost Google-like interface, but it just seems like too much stalker material for my level of comfort.