Zillow's to list foreclosures on website

Oct. 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM
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SEATTLE, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A new feature at U.S. real estate website Zillow listing foreclosure details may too easily subject people to embarrassment, privacy experts said.

Zillow said it was making information on foreclosures available to help home buyers make informed decisions with the use of information that is public anyway.

The feature includes posting information on whether a home is in foreclosure, the status of the mortgage and how much was left in arrears, if any, and what price the property might go for in a foreclosure sale, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

"What we are confronted with here is a scenario that is becoming increasingly common ... which is things that were hard to get, but public, are becoming easy to get," said Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who is considered an expert on privacy issues.

"The larger issue that you are pointing to is the democratization of data that is taking place, possibly without any kind of social discussion around it," he said.

"Sometimes things are protected not by the law but by the act of having to go look it up. Now, in the Internet age, where everything is organized so neatly, and quickly, the question then becomes ... does the law need to respond to changes in technology?" said Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

Zillow's Chief Marketing Officer Amy Bohutinsky said the information "helps buyers become smarter about their local market, and it also gives them access to potential inventory that they wouldn't have been able to find."

"We think the benefits to buyers and the benefits to homeowners who may want their homes exposed to a much broader group of people other than a lot of savvy investors -- we think that is a really big benefit, and that benefit outweighs anything else," she said.

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