Friday, May 07, 2010

Online tools promote amateur sleuthing

"The bar's hopping. The guy's hot. She's curious. He's mysterious. She decides to go gumshoe on him.

The bathroom stall becomes her office, the smartphone her secretary. And using a tech tool like DateCheck that can scope out a potential partner's background in a Philip Marlowe minute, she's cleared him for a romantic go-ahead.

Case closed.

From the ladies room to the chat room to the tweet-stream in the next cubicle, America is becoming a society of amateur spies. With a burgeoning arsenal of websites offering cheap tricks to sniff out subterfuge, abetted by multitudes baring their souls on Facebook, everyday life has become a realm of nonstop intrigue: Spouses are snooping, business competitors are spying, sexting celebrities are apologizing, and everyone's following President Ronald Reagan's advice to trust but verify.

"Everyone's checking out everyone else," says Wolfgang Kandek of Qualys, a Redwood City firm that helps companies like Facebook store and guard their confidential data. 'Once you put information online, it's there forever. So you can look someone up on Facebook, look at their house on Google Earth, and follow them around on Twitter.'"  
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