I’ve been following Zillow for quite some time (since launch). Zillow displays a lot of very nice information on homes – for homeowners or potential buyers. It’s a great site to check out similar home valuations, prices in neighborhoods, etc.
Today they added some new features, including the ability for homeowners to provide input into their home valuation. Many months ago I spoke with Zillow about privacy, and they weren’t really able to tell me too much about their plans.
They have a kind-of interesting mechanism to make sure you are the homeowner – basically you pick a house then enter your email address, etc (and pass a CAPTCHA) and you are presented with a semi-random list of names. I say semi-random because if you are the home owner, your name should be in the list. Select your name and Bamm! – you are instantly the “trusted” owner of the property. You can make changes to data such as square footage, number of rooms, etc. You can even set your own valuation. These changes aren’t applied immediately (and I can’t find what the timing/criteria for placement is)
“Trusted” is key here, because basically anyone can look up an address at the tax office, find the owner name, and “take over” ownership of a property.
Of course people won’t do this because before you claim ownership you have to “promise” (really!) that you own the house. <sarcasm_on> Nobody on the Internet will ever be dishonest, so this shouldn’t concern any of you. </sarcasm off>
That’s it. Just promise you own the house, and as far as the S/W is concerned, you do.
I don’t like this, of course. Seems that the least they could do would be to mail a good old fashioned snail mail letter to the address with some special code in it or something that must be entered.
It’ll be interesting to see how long it is until they are forced to change this – I bet it won’t be very long.