Ucloo, the worrisome Chinese people search engine

Updated

So which Silicon Valley venture firm will dare touch Ucloo?

Ucloo is a year-old Chinese people search engine, and there are many things not to like about this site. First, check out the logo. What does it remind you of? At least they switched the colors of the first three letters (it is red/yellow/blue, instead of blue/red/yellow). See the page comparisons below, with Google, and with Baidu.

Chief executive Randy Ding tells VentureBeat that Ucloo has already indexed 90 million personal profiles for its database, making it the largest people search engine so far. Spock, the ambitious people search engine we profiled here plans to launch with 100 million. But Ucloo is adding between 10,000 and 100,000 profiles a day, Ding tells us, so it will zoom past Spock within a few weeks. It is focused on China now, but is expanding to cover the Chinese community abroad, including in Taiwan, US and Canada. It wants to launch an English version after it raises venture capital — and is now beginning to reach out to Sand Hill Road.

It’s eerily comprehensive. It wants to list everything it can find about you, including your name, birthday, contact information, education, work background, pictures, online activity and reputation — even court records. Check out this profile below, of “LoveGirl,” which shows her Gmail and MSN accounts, among other things. So what happens when it crawls your information, finds out what sites you’ve watched online, who you’ve corresponded with, etc, and you can’t appeal to U.S courts to take it down? Yikes.It wants to 1) let people search for information on other people, 2) let companies check employee background and references, 3) let companies check other companies’ reputation and employees, and 4) lets a user check a company’s background. There’s the additional unanswered question about what China’s government would use it for.

Update: VentureBeat contacted three plugged-in sources in the Chinese tech community, and heard back from each of them that they hadn’t heard of Ucloo until we brought it to their attention. One of them tried it out, and found it useful. She did some research and reports that the current version of Ucloo launched in Sept. after settling some legal issues concerning its data sources, including allegations of theft. In addition to the material we mentioned above, Ucloo even collects your IMs and posts on online forums (so-called bulletin boards in China). Our correspondent found that most media coverage in China about Ucloo is negative, so the commenters below are off-base when they suggest VentureBeat is anti-Chinese. Ucloo’s Ding attended the recent Web 2.0 conference in SF.

Ding, meanwhile, has since responded to some of our criticisms on privacy. We will not edit his remarks. He is Chinese, and so applaud his effort to correspond with us in English.

Ding:

We have the function of “It’s me”, after we verify (by the email address which we send from our database or ask them upload the ID) the person who is listing on Ucloo, the user can edit his/her profile and add/remove some of information.

VentureBeat:

So I can remove anything I want, so that Ucloo won’t have anything about me?

Ding:

1. User can remove SOME of information which is included home address, home phone number or some of other directly contact information and can ask system to transfer all connection request through ucloo.
2. Personal education and work experience can be added new information by the owner, but can’t be removed.
3. Web reference is an hyperlink depend on source website, Ucloo cached to check.
4. Business membership can see all information whatever it has been edited or not.

Also, next version which will be launched the end of this year, we are going to change our logo NOT like Google.

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