Spoke.com Sells Your Friends’ Contact Info

BoingBoing has posted a tip about Spoke.com, a networking website being accused of uploading outlook contact info and selling it. Shame! BoingBoing’s tipster says:

    To get access to Spoke’s “free” service, you must install the Spoke toolbar. The Spoke toolbar then copies all of the information from your address book into the Spoke database.

    If, for example, I pressed the button for Spoke’s free service, the Spoke toolbar would install and then copy the roughly 2100 names, phone numbers, and email addresses out of my Outlook Contact database and then add them to Spoke’s database. Spoke would then be able to sell those names, titles, companies, addresses, and email addresses to direct marketing organizations.

It’s probably best to avoid Spoke.com.—MEGHANN MARCO

Spoke.com is selling your friends’ Outlook address books [BoingBoing]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    My rule has been, “If I can’t use your free service with out installing something, then NO THANK YOU!”

  2. paul says:

    A very wise rule, alteredbeast.

    The VP of Sales for Spoke has posted a very detailed reply on the blogger’s site who first “broke” the story. It’s a bit snippy, but the bottom line is that Spoke does not sell, publish or otherwise disclose any private contact data like direct phone numbers, home phone numbers and email addresses.

    Spoke’s privacy policy emphasizes this, “Direct contact information (including email, address, and telephone number) may only be shared through the Spoke system by the action and with the permission of an individual who already possesses such information.” (just like in real life)

    In the interest of disclosure, I worked with Spoke until October of 2005. Spoke was not a perfect company, but in their data disclosure and privacy policies they always strived to be open and provide users with full control.

  3. spanky says:

    It’d be one thing if their users were sharing their own information, but unless I’m completely misunderstanding this somehow, they’re sharing others’ information.

    So you don’t have control over your own information at all. All you have to do is know one dumbass who doesn’t read the agreement before installing the software.

    (Which I apparently do.)

  4. magic8ball says:

    I’m with Altered. Anyone who wants me to install something in order to use their “free” service is probably pushing malware.

  5. velocipenguin says:

    Anything that rifles through my private data for the benefit of a shady company is malware unto itself. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    (The VP of Spoke claims his company’s behavior is comparable to Skype’s Outlook contact-gathering. The key difference is that Spoke gathers that information for its own uses, while Skype does it to simplify things for the user.)

  6. I’m with Magic8ball and AlteredBeast. There is never a legitimate reason to install software to use a “free” service. The sort of company that requires a “toolbar” or other soft to be installed is trying to take advantage of computer illiterate people.

    Oh, and what the hell is Spoke? I’ll definitely never use this service I never knew existed.

  7. some_yahoo says:

    I am in their database, and I never heard of Spoke.com until today.

    Does the toolbar infect Firefox as well or only M$IE?

  8. Jon says:

    Spanky makes a great point. People don’t have control if the software is getting their info from a friend’s contact list.

  9. Hirayuki says:

    You can avoid Outlook, too. One of the first things I do when upgrading Windows is uninstall Outlook Express. Evil software.

  10. soulbarn says:

    The part of the Spoke site that allows you to search for people (including your own name) is now offline.

  11. mep0929 says:

    I accessed Spoke on March 7th and optioned not to install the toolbar. I used their website to obtain management names at various corporations. It provided quality info.
    However, after that date, whenever I start my computerm Spoke/View Manager attemps to access the internet – which I blocked.

    Lo and behold – a couple of days later my CPU is crawling at 100% usage and when we investigate, find that it is running in the backgroung and taking up nearly 90% of the CPU capability. I have now uninstalled everything that I found related to Spoke.

    I would love to have a chat with the company CEO and find out what information they obtained – without my authorization – from my computer!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the CEO’s personal information:



    1163 Nimitz Ln
    Foster City, CA 94404-3623

    His wife’s name is Ellen

    Someone add a phone number?

    Here’s his Facebook profile, email him through there:

  13. greatdoug says:

    There is no doubt that Spoke Sells your information. We traced spam from the company whos product the spam was for to a email marketing company that when faced with a lawsuit told us they got our company emails to spam from SPOKE.