I thought, oh, geeze...another entity that's peeved that I said something un-cool about them... but that wasn't the case at all.
Rapleaf's entry Startups, privacy, and being wrong is a mea culpa for some of their aggressive marketing mistakes as well as an explanation of what they're up to (which really isn't all that "nefarious"...) Here's part of the explanation:
Rapleaf searches the Internet on people much like some of the more well-publicized services such as ZoomInfo, Wink, and Spock. Rapleaf is a giant system that evaluates billions of pieces of information on over 50 million people, growing by a few hundred thousand people a day. This is a lot of information.
People are sometimes taken aback because of the breadth and depth of Rapleaf’s search. Unlike some of the other services that search on name, our search is based on email address. We are essentially the largest, deepest, and fastest email search engine.
But we do more…
We gather this information to allow users to control it...
Auren Hoffman, Rapleaf's CEO, goes on to explain more about what they do and how they do it--which makes the post a very good read about their business. He goes on to explain where they found all the information about us (quite frankly, that's what's scary) and explains where and how they went wrong. From the "you've been searched" emails to the multiple privacy policies on their various products, Auren ownes up to them.
Honestly, I'm really proud of him for doing just this. It took a lot of guts to eat this particular bowl of crow-laden sheep intestines, but, hey, the guy believes in his product, knows he's not doing anything shifty, and is willing to put all the particular out there to explain it to us.
And it's ok. Rapleaf, you're forgiven :-)
Also see: A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, authored by Jospeh Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Mike Arrington--and supported by a number of great people, including Auren (I support this measure, too...) Jospeh Smarr's post about this is quite wonderful.