BlockShopper: Too Much Information About San Carlos Real Estate?

May 20, 2010

Crossing the Line?

I'm a big fan of real estate-related websites, if you couldn't already tell.   The internet continues to put more and more real estate information at the fingertips of the consumer, where it rightfully belongs.   And informed clients are empowered clients, in my book.   When it comes to putting as much useful information on one page as possible, I think Redfin has one of the best real estate websites out there — even though they are a competitor!    Even Burbed, one of my all-time favorites, has good info hidden amongst the snarky commentary.  And there are many more good, informative websites out there that educate both buyers and sellers.

But is all the information out there necessarily useful information?  Or relevant?   I don't think so.   I recently found a website called BlockShopper that illustrates my point.

A Home Sale Becomes a “Press Release”.

BlockShopper, which describes itself as a “San Francisco real estate news, data and statistics, home sales and real estate listings” website, is packed with lots of useful real estate information — listings, neighborhood sales information, and even a section that refers you to cleaners, carpenters, etc..    Like Redfin, they do a nice job of packaging lots of information in an easy to use website.   So far, so good….

But when you click on the “News” tab, you'll see a list of articles that contain an unnerving amount of information about the buyers and/or sellers in a particular transaction, almost in a “press release” format — where they are employed, how long they've been employed there…perhaps even where they went to school.   Here's a Castro Valley listing that I picked at random that's typical of the kind of information you'll see: Arabic teacher, eBay exec lists Castro Valley 4BD.

Voyeurism, or Useful Information?

While all of this information may be highly entertaining to some, is it really relevant to a real estate transaction?  More important, does it cross any privacy boundaries?    It seems that BlockShopper pulls a lot of this data from LinkedIn and other publicly-available websites, so it's probably fair game.   But I can imagine that most people who are buying or selling a home right now can't be too pleased that this fact is being blasted all over the internet, along with their life story.

The news tab is even segmented by City, which means you can find all kinds of useless and personal information about just about any city, even those people who have bought and sold recently in San Carlos.

What do you think?    Is this a case of TMI?    If you were selling your home today, would you care if anyone knew all of this info?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this…  Leave a comment below.

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  1. Reuben on May 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I just found the BlockShopper site a few weeks ago and was quite aghast by its level of invasiveness. True, BlockShopper is much less invasive and nefarious than Google Street View, the new PG&E SmartMeters, or even FasTrack, but I think the problem is how conveniently BlockShopper aggregates and cross-references data from public records and external sources of personal data. Although people could have cobbled together much of this same information on their own using existing data sources, the fact that BlockShopper is such a highly organized clearinghouse of information is what’s particularly disturbing.

    Whether or not all of this data should be public record is a broader question of personal privacy regulations in this country. Yet, I’m not particularly happy about the accessibility of the information on BlockShopper. My wife and I are pretty discrete people. We’re unlisted in the phone book and maintain carefully crafted presences on the Web. I don’t even use Facebook! So, I’m really annoyed by the fact that you can “google” my name and find my address, my wife’s name, and purchase price of my home on BlockShopper. There needs to be a broad opt out mechanism for BlockShopper. Their response to the question of anonymity is completely unacceptable (read it for yourself at! I should be able to automatically prevent my name from showing up on BlockShopper, especially when its tied to my home address. BlockShopper should not allow searches by name on their site. BlockShopper needs to protect how their databases are exposed to search engines. This is an invasion of our collective privacy.

  2. Chuck Gillooley on May 21, 2010 at 4:04 am


    Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts on this. It struck me the same way when I saw all of the information that they aggregate into one article. I have to believe there’s going to be a challenge to how they promote this data.

    The scary part about it is that they have a huge presence on Google. Whenever you type in an address of a home for sale, BlockShopper’s articles almost always make the first page. So not only is your personal information out there, but it’s high on Google’s ranking too.

  3. jabberwolf on January 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    They violate linkedin user policies to garner information.
    This is not legal to the user agreement that people have signed onto Linked in with.

    Thus its not a matter of if it violates… it DOES violate the law.

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