Spoke.com is Evil

This post previously appeared in my personal blog. I am reposting it here so it may be easily referenced. The original post has received quite a number of comments, including a response from Spoke.com. I think the post continues to be effective in highlighting the potential abuse of any social network.

Spoke.com has built a scheme to capture and then sell the personal contact information of practically everyone connected via e-mail. The plan is genius -- evil genius. Read on...

Spoke.com says it is growing rapidly. Their press release claims:
Since introducing its free service in August 2006, Spoke Software has added more than three million new contacts to its database and has enabled more than 6,000 sales and marketing professionals to improve sales productivity with higher quality, more targeted leads. With no requirement to track points, make trades or give away the direct contact information of colleagues, users are flocking to Spoke's online business contact information database which now provides access to more than 35 million people and 900,000 companies -- more than any other online business database.
This means that over 6000 sales people now have access to 35 million other people using spoke.com. If you are in the business of selling stuff that sounds like a good thing. The problem is that as one of those 6000 people you have entered into a real Faustian bargain.

How the devil will get your soul...

Spoke says that it launched it's free service in August and that they have added 3 million new names since August. How did they do that? It was easy! 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. It's at this point you should be able to smell the burning sulfur.

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. Participating in this scheme is a sure path to hell.

Consider the horrors:
  • You will be submitting the unlisted phone numbers of family, friends, and confidants that may appear in your address book.
  • You may be submitting passwords, PIN numbers, and other private, privileged information stored in your address book because you think no one has access to it.
  • If you are in sales, you've just given away the contact information (and trust) you have worked to develop with your best clients. Now every S&M (sales and marketing) person in the Spoke universe will be bombarding your best clients with calls and potentially competitive offerings.
Instead of joining Spoke, you should be asking congress to outlaw it.

About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.