Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Free Public Record Search Engine - Pretrieve Person Search


Free Public Record Search Engine - Person Search is an example of the databasification of all public records. It's instructive to take a look at the results of a search for yourself in this free people search engine that is apparently used often by journalists. The linked page above takes you to the site home page which is a form allowing you to search for a person, business, address or phone number and the results pages are sometimes frightening.

The results are listed as questions on the Pretrieve.com site in a row of tabs labeled "Criminal, Court, Professional, Local Info, Miscellaneous and the first tab (Criminal) inserts your name or that of the person you are searching for in each possible source of criminal information under a link labeled "Registered Sex Offender Search" then a question with the searched name and state inserted: "Is anyone named (your name here) a registered sex offender in "your state here"? If you searched for your own name, it appears in that frightening position and startles you quite handily.

The arrangement of tabs with criminal info first must be done for the dramatic effect it has on what would otherwise be a rather mundane search of bland information. But when I went ahead and pressed that frightening link, I got a gratifying "no information could be found" result page. Whew! Then again on the link leading to the "Federal Inmate Search" I got a gratifying "Sorry. No Inmate Named (Your name here) Race: unspecified Sex: unspecified found." on the new window launched on the Federal "Bureau of Prisons" site search.

Since I write frequently online, there are hundreds of sources of information on me available in one of the results tabs labled "professional", I was happy to see that my occupation was correctly listed as "Search Engine Optimization Specialist" with sources coming mainly from resource boxes of my articles appearing across the web.

The interface of the Pretrieve.com result page also links you to organizations that have published information about you and fills in the name information, going directly to a search on the name entered at the new site. The interface of Pretrieve.com links you to their sources by launching new windows at different web sites.

The "professional" affiliations are tracked by a site called "Eliyon.com Business People Search" where links to web mentions are tied to the byline of my articles. Seems their forte is finding business mentions to connect with names. OK. But I was surprised to see that one company that I work with was incorrectly listed as being in Northern California, when they are in fact in Southern California. Oh, and they were incorrectly named, but correctly linked to the site of a company that I work with.

This type of error is probably common in online databases and are one of the biggest problems with this type of data aggregation. It is not kept current or accurate by all sources and there are dozens of others with the same name, etc.

A very interesting note comes from the Pretrieve.com privacy page where they make this curious statement: "It may seem contrary for a company dedicated to making public information more easily accessible to be an ardent supporter of information privacy, but the fact is we take information privacy rights extremely seriously. We believe public information should be open and made available to everyone as adamantly as we believe private information should remain private."

But doesn't making all sources of public information easily available, make possible private information easily available along with it? Actually, this only applies to informaiton directly available on the pretrieve site, which is nothing other than your computer and connection info as they don't require registration to use their service. They do place cookies on your hard drive, because the site won't apparently work to fill in the search info in the referred sites if you turn off that option in your browser. The information business seems to be full of contradictions.

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posted by RealitySEO at 11:20 AM

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