Intelius is best known for its background checks on family members, friends or employees. But now the Bellevue company is expanding in a new direction: Helping busy families connect and communicate.

Intelius quietly purchased popular Facebook app Family Builder on June 15th, rebranding the service as Live Family. The company has kept the acquisition pretty close to the vest up until now, with Intelius senior vice president Ed Petersen admitting that the new property is very much a work in progress.

“We did not buy Buckingham Palace,” said Petersen, who is now leading a team at Intelius who oversees the new unit. “What we bought was a great piece of property with a house that needed some work, in a really nice neighborhood.”

The property does have a decent number of tenants. When Intelius bought Family Builder in June, it boasted about 30 million registered users. That number has climbed to just over 41 million in the past four months, and Petersen sees big things ahead.

The idea, as explained by Petersen, is to create a place where brothers, sisters, cousins, moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents can securely share photos, news, family tree information and more.

Petersen noted that Facebook has created a “social graph,” and LinkedIn has built an impressive “professional graph.” In his view, there’s a significant opportunity to create what he dubs a “family graph.”

Live Family is Intelius’ bet on that concept. While it started as a genealogy site, Petersen has much bigger plans in store.

“There’s a great blend there between going from the genealogy side and going into the living component, because as I joke there’s not a lot that changes on the genealogy component once you’ve started it. Once you are underground, you are sort of underground,” he said. “The great thing about the relationships that are defined within Facebook now is that they are continually changing…. The ability to help people manage that from a consumer side is something that we are having pretty good success with.”

At this point, Live Family is built on the back of Facebook. But the company is in the process of rolling out mobile applications for both Android and iPhone.

For the most part, Petersen said that people are using the app to share photos, get birthday notifications and organize schedules. In that regard, the app is similar to the family organizer built by Seattle’s Cozi.

Of course, Facebook already allows people to set up specific groups around interests, including families. But Petersen said that many kids don’t want to be “friends” with their parents, creating a potential bottleneck.

Furthermore, he said that Live Family is not a “grouping engine” or a “filtering engine” sitting on top of Facebook. “It is more about how do you solve the communication issue in the new modern family?”

Live Family plans to make money through in-app advertising, with Petersen saying the big focus right now is building out the product.

Over time, Petersen said they could incorporate daily deals for families from specific advertisers or experiment with virtual goods such as digital greeting cards. There’s also an ad-free based component of Live Family, but Petersen said that makes up a very small portion of revenue.

“Our belief is that if we are really able to get an engaged user community around a family-oriented theme, that we will be able to become a leader in the family graph space,” said Petersen. “And the primary focus there is really dealing with the living component of the family, what’s changing on a daily basis.”

Family Builder was based in New York, and Intelius has maintained the company’s offices there. Nine employees work in the office, and Intelius now has 15 people working on the Live Family product.

“It is a startup right now, within a startup,” said Petersen, who declined to offer terms of the acquisition.

He added that the Live Family product ties in nicely with Intelius, which he said is very good at understanding “people-centric information.”

Previously on GeekWire: “Intelius CEO Naveen Jain: IPO could be in the cards in 2012″

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Comments

  • Egenedemail-geni

    Not happy this has happened

  • Really?

    I wonder how much they were paid to sell their users’ information to a company that makes their money by exploiting personal information.  What a dick move.

    • Guest

      Family Builder already works on Facebook, a company that makes its money by exploiting personal information. I don’t think this presents any sort of added risk.

      • Mike

        Facebook has its own set of privacy issues, but at least they have some privacy controls that users can set.  Imagine that you are a Family Builder user and grant them access to your Facebook information thinking it will be used to make a family tree, then they sell themselves to a company that literally sells people’s personal information to anyone that is willing to pay for it.  Now this new company inherits the permissions that you granted to the family tree site and then uses it to scrape your information and make your facebook info available to anyone that pays them for a “background check” on you.  I agree with Brad’s comment below.  Any article about Intellius should really include at least a reference to their bad reputation and the fact that they have been sued by Washington’s AG for screwing over Washington residents.

    • Guest

      Family Builder already works on Facebook, a company that makes its money by exploiting personal information. I don’t think this presents any sort of added risk.

  • Brad

    John, can you comment on the information I’ve read about this company and the CEO by Michael Arrington.

    http://techcrunch.com/search/Intelius

    If true, I think you should always include a link about what these guys really do….or, just ignore them.  We should be embarrassed this company is part of our community.

  • Brad

    John, can you comment on the information I’ve read about this company and the CEO by Michael Arrington.

    http://techcrunch.com/search/Intelius

    If true, I think you should always include a link about what these guys really do….or, just ignore them.  We should be embarrassed this company is part of our community.

  • http://marselluswallace.myopenid.com/ Marsellus Wallace

    Expect more evil from Intelius. Does anyone have an update on the FTC investigation of Intelius for their criminal post transaction behavior?

  • http://www.androidreviewblog.com/ omurphy

    Intelius is best known for scamming people out of a money, as a simple Google search and thousands of customer complaints would reveal. This really deserves a mention at the very least, otherwise the article reads more like an Intelius press release. 

  • ConCitazen

    From what you can read online, I gather the history is this. 1. InfoSpace defrauds investors over $1B. 2. InfoSpace only has half ~$500M in cash in liquid assets. The case goes to court and the judge seals documents protecting InfoSpace from going bankrupt, they could only pay half back anyway. 3. Investors settle for a meager ~$40M. 4. InfoSpace spends half of their cash on switchboard ~$220M leaving ~1/4 of the $1B they owe back to investors. 5. To calm investors, InfoSpace does a good faith 10% of $1B stock buy back ~$100M. 6. Some other fun stuff like stipper gate, money laundering, other weirdness appears in the Seattletimes.
    7. A couple years ago the documents become unsealed, but it’s old news. 8. There’s a 5 page spread about the ordeal in the Seattletimes and the tech crunch story. 9. Naveen moves literally across the street from InfoSpace and forms Intelius. 10. A bunch of class action lawsuits are filed over the scam stuff (in progress). 11. Intelius buys a Facebook App 12. OMG where does the money come from? Is it from the scam or was it from the original $1B+ invested in INSP. Who knows, but this is some crazy stuff going on.

  • Rob T

    I hate to say this but anyone who is stupid enough to trust facebook or any other modern corporation in the first place deserves to have their information stolen. Things have really changed in the last 15 years. facebook has been selling every keystroke of user personal information since they began. Selling your personal information is a very big business. How did you think they made so much money? Changing privacy policies on a daily basis should have been a tip off.

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