Privacy Alert: Online Stalking Just Got Easier

By Katie Kindelan Comment

With the tagline, “it’s ok to look,” a new online service gives users the ability to see the Web sites you’re visiting and the places, pictures and conversations you’re viewing on the Web. Your friends may think its “ok to look,” but is it ok with you?

The service is called Voyurl and, as the not-so-subtle name implies, it offers a voyeuristic view into the URLs you and your friends are visiting.

The idea behind the site is to reveal and share, among friends, what people are looking at on the Web, what’s in their clickstream, and what others are viewing, in real-time.

The site has been running ads since June of last year, but appears to still be in the beta testing phase. The site encourages people to leave their email addresses to be notified once the site is live, promising only, “we’re coming soon. watch out.”

Users can access the service by simply installing the Voyurl plug in for Chrome or Firefox and logging in via Twitter, Facebook, or an email address. They’re then free to quietly “stalk” fellow Voyurl members across the Web.

Despite the wide-ranging access the service provides, there are a few protections built in.

For instance, you can make your stream anonymous, so the URLs you visit are displayed but not connected with your Voyurl user name. You can also delete individual URLs and you can click the Voyurl button at the top of your browser at anytime to turn off the service if you’re venturing into areas of the Web you would rather not share.

But even the anonymity promised by the site isn’t exactly anonymous. Early testers of the system have managed to follow “anonymous” users, and see the URLs and surfing histories of total strangers.

Perhaps participating the backlash this type of access would incur, the home page prominently features a link simply titled “it’s ok” that states:

“A little creeped out? That’s cool. But don’t worry, it’s ok to look. Besides, you can turn off voyurl at any time, for those, ahem, unmentionable sites. Plus, you can set your own filters. See, it’s not that scary.”

Tell us what you think. Is Voyurl scary to you, or the next big thing?