I’m really not surprised. Not one bit. But here’s another website that’s publishing our information without permission.

This time they claim to be a wiki and that they are gathering information about other websites. On the page aboutus.org/spoken-for.org, I found the first part of my about page was ripped off and I was listed as having lived in the US and they listed an email address for me as well as links to Alexa about my website and sites they considered to be related (75% were not related whatsoever including a blog I recognize but don’t visit but is marked by Alexa as being related to me).

Now, as disturbing as that all was, there are even more disturbing “wiki website” pages. I looked up some on friends. One friend has their whole address and phone number listed… along with a Google map to their house. That is disturbing. They even grabbed the image of a friend’s website header and put it on his page.

Yes, this information is available via whois records that are not protected and anyone can use Google to get a map, but I find it disturbing that this site is listing this information as a third party, and as I read on other posts about this site, asking for donations and volunteers to help with the site. How very fishy.

And, really, think about it. This site is a wiki site which means that anyone who’s not banned from the site can edit any page. Do you see where I’m going with this? Anyone could get in there and repost my information if they wanted to, after I’d removed it. You do not even have to verify your email address to get posting/deleting (I know, I’ve not verified mine). Not to mention the concerns of the history of pages that others have voiced. This could end up being the bathroom stall door of all websites.

Think your website is protected and you are immune? You may not be. I just checked out the page of a friend’s site – it’s been passworded for some time now yet information still remains… check it out. Do aboutus.org/yourwebsite.tld and see what comes up.

Well right away, a friend and I got an account (I used a forwarder, not my real address) and started editing our information out. I started doing some Googling and did find out that you can opt-out of this “service” (more on that later), and, of course, I found some early adopters who have already blogged on this:

  • sonspring.com/journal/aboutusorg-a-sham
  • adamreyher.com/aboutus-broke-my-copyright
  • molly.com/…oh-just-what-i-need-more-stalkers/
  • Here’s what you can do to start to opt out, in the words of aboutus.org:

    Some people have expressed concern that they don’t want either the description of their site or their contact information shown on AboutUs pages and further that deleting the information using the standard edit is insufficient because the history remains. We now have a way to get rid of the history and reinstate a domain page with a minimal set of information. This will prevent the page from getting recreated and contact information restored by the bot. It’s not automated yet, but send me (ray@aboutus.org) any names you own and wish to have scrubbed in this manner and I will do them manually for now.

    And here’s a sample letter that Bes wrote that you can send to Mr. Ray King at aboutus.org:

    As per instructions on:

    http://www.aboutus.org/How_can_I_OptOut_of_AboutUs/

    I am writing to request to have the following sites removed from AboutUs.org:

    http://domain.com

    http://domain.net

    http://domain.org

    Thank you. Waiting for your reply.

    Regards,
    Domain Owner

    http://www.aboutus.org/AboutUsBot also gives some information on the Aboutus Bot. Notice the User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; AboutUsBot/0.9; +http://www.aboutus.org/AboutUsBot). If you’re using Owen’s new plugin for WordPress, AntiLeech in regards to the Bitacle blow-up, you should be able to apply the same treatment to Aboutus that you do Bitacle and other bad bots.

    Once again, I’m sure I’ll be updating this post as new things come into light.

    UPDATES:

    Here’s what I posted in the comments below about my opt-out experience:

    I did get a response to my opt-out email:

    I didn’t check, but are all of these sites already on AboutUs? I’m
    happy to opt out the ones that are, but do you want me to make optout
    articles for the ones that aren’t?

    I’m running this site because I think that over time it will become a
    valuable resource; that said, I understand your comment/concern.

    I had listed 33 domains to be opted out, all the ones in my account/possession. That included some that are “up and coming” as well as some that were once used but not used currently… all just for good measure.

    I then replied that I hadn’t checked all of them either, but YES, opt them ALL out.

    His second paragraph was in response to my basically saying it would have been nice to have been contacted before my personal information was added to that site with a map to my house and allowing anyone who wanted to the ability to change the pages…

    He responded a second time to say that he has done the opt-outs. I’m off to check on them now…

    Also, I’ve recently discovered a few more things that people around the net are discussing.

    If your domain does not have a page and someone searches aboutus for it… yup it’s created on the fly. I saw this happen before my eyes with a domain I’m working on for my cousin. It was registered only a couple of weeks ago, if that.

    Also, I noticed that on some of our opt out pages that there was the following note:

    Note to website owner: If you would like to opt back in to AboutUs, you may do so by simply editing this page and replacing it with a structure similar to any other page you like and replacing the contents with your own, or just add your URL to this page and we’ll take care of it. — AboutUs.org team.

    Then of course, with a link to yet another page that just anyone can edit and add your site back to be re-added to aboutus!

    Someone, please tell me what is wrong with all this!!