06 July 2006

Beware of being harvested

Yesterday morning I was googling my name on the net in search of an article I wrote recently for a website and I was startled to see myself listed on a media database I had never heard of. The database in question, Media Manpower, is very new. Intrigued, I took a look at it, and there in black and white was my name on the list of freelance journalists. I searched the site further. The Contact Us page offers only a standard enquiry form - there is no physical address or telephone number. And it's a subscriber database. In short, you have to pay to be listed.

Not wanting to be lumbered with an unsolicited bill for a service I hadn't wittingly subscribed to, and eager to discover just how and why my name had ended up on there, I used the enquiry form to demand a prompt explanation.

Last night, I received a rather lame reply saying they had taken my name off a list of freelance journalists belonging to a very well-known professional body. This was patently untrue as my membership of that organisation is currently lapsed. Media Manpower also claimed that they'd been too busy to e-mail me to invite me to join but had been planning to.

I was distinctly unimpressed.

I'm a member of precisely three paid-up professional listings at present - SfEP, and the Freelance Journalists and Freelancers in the UK databases. I'm also listed on a few free databases that I have carefully selected. I'm pretty picky about where I list my services.

Harvesting my details without my permission is not on. For all I know, I could have been added to a website that could have been extremely damaging to me, professionally speaking. It's the industry equivalent of spam e-mails, given that I was given no prior option to join up, especially as Media Manpower charges for listings. Possibly, if they had contacted me first and invited me to try out a free 3-month listing (as stated in the e-mail), I might have been interested. But I have no wish to be associated with any company that acts on my behalf without my express permission. Besides, I have a policy of never doing business with a web-based organisation that has no contact details bar an enquiry form. How do I know where they are based? How would I speak to a human if there was a problem?

I just sent them a reply, which was basically a diplomatic version of the GFY commandment, excuse my French... I've instructed Media Manpower to remove me immediately from their database.

My next step is to warn every other freelance I know to go and check this company's database to see if they too have been unknowingly added.

On a brighter note, domestic calm has been restored at Wordsmith Towers now that the washing machine has been fixed and I was on a high last night after Marcos Baghdatis gave Lleyton Hewitt the drubbing I've long wished for him.

Eerily, today is exactly a year since the London bombings, bar the date (see yesterday's blog). Today, I am once again meeting my mother for lunch. I'm not religious but I'll be "praying" that today passes without incident and that there is no repeat of last year's atrocity.

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