When was the last time you actually looked in the phone book to find someone’s number? For anyone under 40, the Web has already replaced the phone book with people search. But the listings are not always complete or up to date. One of the largest people directories online, WhitePages, is adding consumer-editing capabilities to make its people database more accurate.
You can now edit your entry, and control to some extent the information that is shown on the site. For instance, you can correct and update any addresses or phone numbers associated with your name. WhitePages also lets you hide your contact information and be contacted instead through WhitePages, which acts as a communication proxy on your behalf. (It forwards contact requests via email or text message).
Since the summer, WhitePages has allowed people to add their own listing, but now they can edit existing listings as well. The crowd-sourced approach is a little like JigSaw for sales contacts, except you are not supposed to edit anyone’s contact information but your own. In the future, WhitePages will allow you to add links to your Facebook, LinkedIn and other social network profiles as well.
This sets a good precedent. Companies that traffic in personal data on the Web should always let the people described by the data correct it amend it, or hide it if they choose. In the end, the Web will end up with much richer data, and consumers will feel like they can at least control what information is out there about them.