Picture This: Your Digital Identity is Worth a Thousand Words


When you go on Facebook or LinkedIn, you expect that your friends, family members and colleagues are being honest about their digital identity. When you create your Whitepages listing, you fill in your name, address and phone number, but you can also link to your social networks to provide a more complete portrait of your digital self.

But the funny thing about the Internet is that it does allow for some smoke and mirrors, to an extent. Apparently, it tends to be less offensive than outright deception in face-to-face encounters. Where’s the proof? Medical News Today highlighted a recent study conducted by University of Connecticut researchers who looked at the impact of “beautifying” pictures on an online dating site.

Forces of Attraction or Deception? 

It’s become almost automatic to provide a picture of yourself when you sign up for social networks, but nowhere is your “selfie” more important when you’re looking for love online. When you’re trying to make a match, your visual perceptions often takes the front seat. But anyone who’s scanned the tabloids waiting in line at the grocery store knows how amazing Photoshop is at making celebrities look otherworldly, for better or for worse. With online dating sites, photos are among several variables that others use to make judgments about your date-worthiness.

What does your profile picture tell others about you? 

The University of Connecticut researchers found that enhanced photos – including lighting, makeup and hair styling – had an impact on both men and women. In fact, women rated men with digitally altered profile pictures as more attractive and trustworthy. Men also indicated the enhanced pictures were more attractive, but, on the other hand, they expressed less trust in the potential dates.

Although this study’s insight is limited to online dating in a practical sense, there are bigger issues relating to digital identities that you can see. Like our real-world relationships, we have a great deal of influence over the way people perceive you. If the world is a stage, the Web is something more like a diorama of various stages of your life. You can foster real relationships and connect with people online, and creating a coherent, trustworthy identity is incredibly important.

Developing a complete portrait
A 2011 study about digital identity completed by researchers at the University of Salford in the U.K. underlined the fact that our digital identities are largely fragmentary. Why? Unless you make an effort to align your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles, these will likely provide snapshots of your complete identity.

At Whitepages, we believe in the good that data can do when it’s used for the benefit of others. When you create your online profile, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • What role does trust play in creating your online identity?
  • How do you want people to perceive you?
  • What do you value does your digital identity have for you and others?

The beauty of Whitepages is that it helps you create an accurate digital self-portrait, which builds a Web experience based on trust and transparency. Whether people are trying to contact you or you want to reach out to someone else, honesty will always get you started out on the right foot.

Meet Engineer Manager, Brent Newman


Meet New York native and Whitepages engineer manager, Brent Newman. As an engineer manager, Brent leads a team of 5 who work closely together to tackle the front end of our Caller ID Android app. If you have the opportunity to walk around our office, you would likely find Brent working intensely at his desk, but if you listen closely, you just might hear him listening to Beck or Arctic Monkeys. Let’s meet Brent!


Which office are you in?

Why did you join Whitepages?
I wanted a chance to create mobile apps that would reach millions of people.

What’s your hometown?
Fredonia, NY

What’s your favorite snack in the kitchen?
The new Sriracha covered cashews are pretty awesome.

How do you take your coffee?
Cream and sugar, but two of those hazelnut creamer packets in the kitchen will do.

What do you listen to at work? What’s on your playlist?
Recent favorites: Beck, Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, Milky Chance, Twenty One Pilots, Zedd, The Strokes.
(The Arctic Monkeys!)

What was your very first job?
My parents used to own a small corner grocery store (attached to our house). I worked there as a cashier and I would also stock the shelves.

Describe your first computer.
It was a TI-99/4A. I saved up $60 from my allowance and my grandparents paid the other $60. I taught myself BASIC programming on it, and would save my programs to cassette tape.

What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?
I used to really love a show called the Dukes of Hazzard. So embarrassing.

Fill in the blank: If you really knew me, you’d know _______.
My wife and I were in the same Kindergarten class.

What are you most proud of?
My family (my two daughters!).

What do you do when you have 30 minutes of free time?
Play Words with Friends, scan my twitter feed.

If you had 10 extra dollars what would you buy?
Probably a couple of cool new iPhone/iPad apps.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?
No song exists that can handle my singing voice. It’ll also be a cold day in hell that you’ll find me on a karaoke stage.

What’s the last vacation you went on?
Went with my family to England for Christmas. Spent time in London and the English Countryside.

What’s your signature gelato flavor?
Cappuccino and Chocolate.

Two things you can’t live without?
Chocolate and my iPhone.

Rise Against the Machines: Fighting Robocalls & SMS Spam


Scammers aren’t quitters. Especially the ones who aren’t human—that’s where robocallers come in. While it’s pretty entertaining to picture an actual robot sitting on the other end of the line hoping to convince you sign up for their services, it gets old pretty quickly. And, as an Ars Technica article pointed out, interactive voice response (IVR) programs are not quite as charming as Wall-E trying to romance his way into the mechanical heart of his robot lady friend.



A.I. or just annoying?

Depending on the quality of the computer programming and vocal inflection, it can be pretty difficult to tell if you’re talking to robot or person. In fact, IVR bots tend to venture into what’s known as the uncanny valley, an ambiguous and uncomfortable twilight zone where computers come too close to being human-like both in appearance and sound, but are just robotic enough to be inhuman. In other words, this situation gives you the creeps. But, if you probe the robocallers long enough, it quickly becomes clear that you’re dealing with an IVR program spouting a scripted pitch.

Spammers using this technology are also experts at changing up the phone number that pops up on your phone, often using a local area code. This may lead you to believe that it’s a legitimate person or business calling. That’s one of the reasons that we developed our app Whitepages Caller ID to enable you to immediately identify and block spam calls. You don’t have to waste even a second listening to “Bob” ask you how your day is going, and potentially coaxing you into disclosing sensitive information. However, spam isn’t limited to robocalls, as iPhone owners have learned that.

Making a mess of iMessage

For iPhone users, iMessage is a pretty useful way to dodge data fees. But it doesn’t stop there: Almost all Apple products are connected to the iMessage system, which allows for free communication to anyone with the brand’s devices.

It’s also apparently a great way for spammers to get their annoying messages in front a massive amount of consumers. And it’s a dream come true for scammers with knowledge of Apple scripts. Wired explained the perpetrators of a spam attack from August last year used Apple’s own code to carry out the campaign. Who can resist knock-off luxury purses and faux-Oakley sunglasses? Plus, the workaround that Apple set up was pretty clunky. You had to send Apple a screen shot of the spam message, phone number or email, and details about when it was sent. Even then, it took a few days to see results.

Now, the Cupertino-based tech company has upgraded its spam blocking functionality in the latest iOS version. CNET explained you’re able to filter out unknown senders and mark them as junk. That’s great that Apple is taking the time to boost their blocking capabilities, but the reality is that there needs to be better spam detection.

At Whitepages, our phone reputation service works around the clock to ID spammers, including robocallers. We use that information when you search a phone number on our site, or when you use Whitepages Caller ID. If you’re an Anroid user, Caller ID is the ideal solution for helping you avoid cellphone spam and block scammers, both human and robot.

#TeamWP: Meet Engineering Manager, Steve Saarinen


Meet Steve Saarinen, dad, coding enthusiast and engineering manager at Whitepages. Steve manages a team of developers who are responsible for development of all Whitepages Web properties on all devices. In total, those properties have 250 million page views per month for 55 million unique users (wow!). Steve is clearly passionate about his job and his team. In his own words, Steve says, “I manage a team of eight of the most talented full stack developers I’ve had the pleasure of working with over a 15 year career.” Let’s meet Steve!

Which office are you in?

Why did you join Whitepages?
There are so many reasons! I can give you my top three:

  1. The team. The talent and passion of the engineers I get to work with on a daily basis is truly a privilege.
  2. The Impact. Code I write today is in the hands of 60 million users tomorrow. Impacting so many users directly is such a satisfying part of working here at Whitepages!
  3. Engineering Culture. From product inception, to architecture, to testing and development, the engineering culture at Whitepages produces a consistent drive for perfection. There is nothing I love hearing more than a discussion within the group about code style, syntax, testing paradigms, or how to best optimize our CI process. Each and every engineer within our organization has the ability to impact our culture and processes, and it shows.

What’s your hometown?
Woodinville, WA

What’s your favorite snack in the kitchen?
Strawberry Yogurt

How do you take your coffee?
In the machine with a side of Monster Rehab!

What do you listen to at work?  What’s on your playlist?
When I’m coding, I enjoy listening to Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, deadmau5, etc. Something about the driving beats when I’m in the flow really keeps me motivated. When I’m not coding, I enjoy listening to my own voice as I complain about not coding. (Now, that’s what we call passion!)

What was your very first job?
My first job as a 15 year old was as a sales associate at Play It Again Sports in Woodinville.

Describe your first computer.
This may date me a bit, but my first computer was an Apple IIe with a beautiful ImageWriter dot-matrix printer my dad got the family for Christmas.

What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?
Looney Tunes, of course. Early Woody Woodpecker was a staple in the Saarinen household.

Fill in the blank: If you really knew me, you’d know _______.
I had a beautiful gold 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a 350 Rocket as my first car. That 3,500 lb beauty carried me all the way through high school…until I drifted it sideways into a curb and broke both axels, all because I was showing off for a girl. Man, I miss that car!

What are you most proud of?
Besides my two beautiful daughters, I’m most proud of the 1st place trophy I took in the Whitepages team Karting GP at Pacific Grand Prix! It’s kind of a big deal…

What do you do when you have 30 minutes of free time?
This would be a toss up between a couple games of Call of Duty, or an episode of Archer.

If you had 10 extra dollars what would you buy?
Ten bucks would fill my SCUBA tanks. Maybe some crabbing would be in order?

What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Anything George Michael. My mom says I sound just like him…

What’s the last vacation you went on?
Disney World with my daughters. I will not confirm or deny the fact that I may have developed a crush on Princess Jasmine.

What’s your signature gelato flavor?

Two things you can’t live without?
My two girls and adrenaline…also, Princess Jasmine…

WP Tech Talk – What Clear Priorities Can Do for Ops


Every week, we host tech talk Meetups at our headquarters in Downtown Seattle in which a speaker discusses important topics in the industry, often coming from their personal experiences. These tech Meetup topics range from an in-depth explanation of how to migrate a large company to a private cloud, to tips on using technologies such as Spark. This week, we welcomed Dominica Degrandis from LeanKit. As Dominica said herself, this meetup discusses “what clear priorities can do for Ops and how to get them.”

Stay tuned for next week! Interested in seeing our previous Meetups hosted at Whitepages? Take a look on our YouTube channel. Click “subscribe” to get notified whenever a new Tech Talk video goes live.