Blockshopper.com Complaint - Blockshopper Publishing Names and Home Addresses on the Web

Review by sharlet on 2009-09-26
This week I've had the unpleasant experience of discovering my name & home address are published on the web, easily accessible through a Google search & particularly via the website www.blockshopper.com After two requests I discovered that this company does not want to remove my name- even though I have described to them that I am the victim of a stalker in the past & have taken great efforts to protect my home address. After further research, I discovered there are a number of similar complaints against Blockshopper.com, & they are refusing those requests as well. Also- please be aware that it is most likely that your name & home address are published on this site as well. I did some random checks on friends and business people, & came up with 100% hits each time. If your name is unusual, as is mine, it pops up very quickly on Google with a link to Blockshopper. If it is more common, one can just go onto the Blockshopper site, choose the city, choose the option of finding property by “Homeowners”, type in a full name or even a last name- & if that person owns property under their name- voila- you now have the home address. There is usually an aerial map photograph, frequently a street photograph, and in many cases a photo of the front of the house! If this property has changed hands in the last few years, also available is the purchase price, & the taxes paid. You’ll notice on the opening pages of the city areas that there are “news stories” about recent sales and purchases. These also are not necessarily authorized stories provided by either seller or buyer. These are data mined and photos are pulled from social networking sites such as Facebook. Again- sellers and buyers have been complaining to this company, to no avail. Their typical response is that the information they are posting is available to anyone through public records. And while this may be technically correct- it’s not that easy to go to any public records site & find out the home address of any given property owner. There are steps that have to be taken, and sometimes fees paid. Blockshopper has now managed to make it available with about 1 minute of research. They have received complaints from people who are victims of various crimes trying to protect their anonymity; mental health workers who don't want patients to have their home address; law enforcement officials and attorneys who don't want their home address published; etc. etc. No matter- they are claiming freedom of speech and use of public records. Interestingly enough- of the four main partners that own and operate this company- only one has their information available on the site! While they are currently focused on some large metropolitan areas, they are planning on expanding their geographical information. A few days ago I spoke with the Attorney General’s office who directed me to write to my legislators. As they described it, these types of Data Brokers are not currently held to any laws preventing them from doing this. I find it amazing that we can opt out of telemarketing lists, catalog mailing lists, and have unlisted phone numbers, but this company isn't held to any similar standard. But if we want it to change we have CONTACT LEGISLATORS!! WRITE, COMPLAIN, AND COMPLAIN SOME MORE- THERE HAS TO BE CITIZEN EFFORT PUSHING OUR LEGISLATORS TO ACTION!
Comments:10 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-11-02
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-26:
I don't know how I feel about this, so I will just ramble a little. Blockshopper sure is an interesting site. It looks like they only use information already made public one way or the other, such as government records or previously published, particularly on the Net.

Your contention that they are making this public information too easy to find is an interesting point. On the one hand, if I wanted to buy a home in a particular area, this site would be a great resource to see who else was buying property there. But I don't want my personal info pulled together into a one-stop source. But maybe that's just something I have to learn to live with. Even if they offered an opt out feature, there is no legitimate reason to exclude the government records, and I would not support that at all. And if info about where I worked, etc. was already published, well, it's already out there. Is ease of access really that big of a concern? That's one of the selling points of this electronic world we live in.

So, I guess while I think this site and what they are doing with public information isn't the greatest thing in the world, I'm not sure what the overall harm is. It's another example of both growing pains (as a society) and perhaps an area where our laws haven't caught up yet (such as committing liable online).
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-26:
Go to any county tax assessor site and punch in an address. You can get the name of the owner, who they bought it from for how much, etc.

Public records are available on many, many, many sites for just a few clicks. It is what it is. Nothing we can do about it,a s there are many laws making this info available.

Just for fun, try entering your name and the names of those you know in your county's court search, either municipal or common pleas.
Posted by sharlet on 2009-09-26:
Again- everyone is correct that this information is out there as a matter of public record. But it has always taken an effort to find a particular individual vs. looking into a particular piece of property. Let's say I move- even 3 times- as I did because a stalker was threatening me & breaking into my home. I've now spent years protecting my private info. I don't care that my address is available to the county public records- which is for the purposes of tax collection, voting verification, etc. I don't even care if blockshopper puts the address & value info on their site. What I DO care about is that now this nutcase guy can just enter my name & find me in a heartbeat. After years of peace & quiet, and now I am a mother with a child to protect- my relative safety is now shot. And for all those who think this is "no big deal" because they've never had issues like this. Consider: mental health workers, law enforcement officers, street cops, detectives, judges, prosecuting attny's, prison officials, school officials, women running from abusive spouses, victims of rape, etc. etc. etc. If you think it doesn't affect you- it probably affects someone you know.
Posted by CalliK on 2009-09-26:
I have been into my county assessor's site and names ARE NOT listed. And, here's another point. This is a real estate company - they are supposedly selling homes. Why the need for names and other personal information? They are using names to advertise their business. They include personal information (and links to other information) so people can be targeted by businesses. The fact that people can be targeted for other reasons as well doesn't matter to them. They are using names without permission and against the wishes of people for their profit. And now that they have crossed this boundary, where will it stop?
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-26:
really? As a 19 year collection professional, I use county tax assessor sites all day. I have never come across one that does not list both the current owner's name as well as previous info if the property has every been sold.
Posted by D. on 2009-09-26:
I just checked out this site and I have to say, the information on it is very limited. The county assessor's sites have much more detail and most of them even have the floor plans posted, along with all the tax info and history. Being a skip tracer, this site will come in handy because it is easier accessible, without having to look up the individual counties etc. If you think this site is revealing, you'd be sick to your stomach if you knew of some of the information I find on the sites I visit for the work I do.
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-26:
DB, do you use zillow.com? Always great info there, especially when doing asset searches. And good lord, folks would freak out if they saw the amount of info Accurint provides.
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-26:
Do you use lexisnexis?
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-09-26:
Lexisnexis isn't as good as it used to be. I get more info off Accurint, teletrack and county tax assessor sites these days. Municipal and common pleas court sites are good, as well as DOL info, when we can get it.
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-11-02:

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