There are other options but I have not had personal experience with them, and before trying them out I'd recommend research and peer reviews, as I've noticed that some "reputation" and data privacy services are not what they seem. For instance, US Search now owned by peoplesearch giant Intelius was sued last October by the FTC for promising customers their PrivacyLock service would block customers' data from public access PrivacyLock's own claims to remove individuals from results were false. As you're about to read, these "people search" sites would really rather that no one privacy-minded noticed them at all.
In fact, getting yourself removed is a complete hassle and as I found out in some cases -- it's not even possible.
Tip 1: Right now it's unclear whether these sites retain the information you enter into their search boxes; many suspect this is one of the ways they collect data. Avoid typing your info directly into these sites by Googling the site name along with your name. So-called "peoplefinder" and "background check" sites paint a rosy picture of being online databases where, for free or a fee, anyone can look up contact information to find relatives, find the owners of lost pets, where nervous online daters can make sure they're not about to date a felon, and where businesses can check out potential employees.
And people do. These sites are in the business of posting your personal information for anyone to see, and search. As you'd suspect, they have a much darker use for people with bad intentions.
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I have experienced this personally, and I'm sure the victims of things like " Porn Wikileaks " have as well. People search sites get their data from public records and corporations selling your information to them including third-party fine print agreements you agree to by using businesses such as Facebook and eBay. Intelius' blog underscores the use of social network data. In a post about the acrimony between privacy pundits and data brokers , Intelius stated:.
In the midst of a social media phenomenon, consumer advocacy groups show how free basic public records have recently transformed into more robust reports from aggregators like Spokeo. The average consumer, they argue, is unaware of how much of the personal information is online and how it is being used.
How to Remove Yourself From People Search Directories
In a new age of modern permanent records, popular sites like Facebook and Twitter are the face of a hidden world of commercial data brokers. The bold is mine; I reached out to Intelius asking them to explain that very sentence and Intelius has not responded to request for comment at this time. As an aside, the company they mention, Spokeo, was recently sued for using web tracking technology that allegedly violates Federal privacy laws. But what about those public records? A "public record" includes anything prepared by a government employee or in furtherance of government records.
All public records are accessible through the Freedom of Information FOI Act, both federal and state - and the laws surrounding them vary from state to state.
It’s Creepy, But Not Illegal, For This Website To Provide All Your Public Info To Anyone
It's totally legal to access public records - except the way we access public records has changed since the advent of the internet, and it's shattered the kind of privacy we all used to enjoy. Abine's analyst Downey observes:. People search sites argue that they're merely displaying public record information. I think that's a bullshit argument, though.
As someone for whom the First Amendment is the closest thing I have to religion, even I can see that an industry-specific limitation on only these people search websites wouldn't have an impact on the First Amendment at large. Even if something is classified as public record information, we can still limit the context and means in which it's retrieved. That's really the issue here: the high visibility and accessibility of the internet has made public records much more public than they ever were before. Perhaps you should still be able to access this information, but you'd have to go to town hall to do it.
You could no longer stalk someone on Intelius from your couch.
These data dealers can be divided into two broad categories in terms of how they get and distribute their information. Primary sites are the big dogs of data: they get their information through public record sources, while secondary sites aggregate their information through automated data mining of other sites. Intelius, for instance, offers "over intelligence services" including a simple people search that provides a person's address, phone numbers, and a background report promising to show any criminal activity. I'm guessing that after reading this far you're already searching for yourself on some of these sites.
People Finder News
You're probably noticing that there are a lot of inaccuracies - there are. Though there is also enough true information to give anyone a coronary. Or like me you saw crazy, glaring inaccuracies repeated on different sites. The inaccuracies are often so unfathomable they make you think that your identity has been hijacked, resulting in different names and addresses incorrectly associated with your own - or even criminal records and vocations assigned to your profiles that you know you don't have in your own history.
Many of these sites are notoriously incorrect and sloppy in their data compilation. Abine's Downey explains,. The secondary-producer people search sites are aggregators, meaning they collect their information from other people search sites, both primary and secondary, social networks, online accounts, online tracking, blogs, etc. They appear to have a much greater wealth and depth of knowledge, but they're notoriously inaccurate. It's like they're playing telephone and they're much further down the receiving line.
Even big player Intelius conceded in a SEC filing that the information that it and similar companies sell is often inaccurate and out of date. Not surprisingly, these companies don't make it easy for individuals to opt-out. Some make it seem like you have to register for the site.
Free People Search
Or like "Free People Search Engine" Radaris, they actually force you to register and agree to their terms in order to opt-out. Many sites require that you scan and provide your ID, and include onerous procedures such as accepting opt-out request letters only via fax or postal mail. This seems to be a standard. The opt-out precesses all frustratingly different. While many of the companies are owned by each other, each has its own opt-out procedure and some of the sites don't even state an opt-out is possible in their front-facing privacy policies.
First Name. Last Name. SSN First 3 digits only. City optional. Area Code. The site requests up to 48 hours to scrub living-person records from the site after an opt-out has been requested. The first big warning worked its way around the world during the day on Jan. Those users likewise no longer see themselves listed as possible family members or known associates of family who do still have profiles on the site. There are, however, some catches. Adding to the chaos? More often than not, opting out appears to work successfully. Information about you has been available on the internet for decades.
The Crash Override Network — dedicated to helping prevent internet-generated abuse, and helping its victims mitigate the effects — has links to several sites and lists that aggregate public records info that users afraid of having it intentionally leaked or who simply value their privacy can opt out of.
Generally speaking, sites that exist to help users compile family trees work to protect the privacy of persons who are still living. FamilyTreeNow has no such protection built in. Instead, it touts its access to your data as a selling point. They include current and past addresses, possible aliases, all known relatives, and phone numbers.
There is no other database like this on any other genealogy sites. It contains over 1. Those laws and policies may not mean much more about that in a moment , but Ancestry at least does make a token effort. Another place where FamilyTreeNow stands out? Most similar sites start charging for access to anything other than the most basic data, or after a certain number of searches.
Totally Free White Pages
It does, at least, make your information slightly less low-hanging fruit for targeting by the general public. Charging a fee to sign up for a site will deter many idle minds from bothering, because a hurdle is a hurdle. Worse: To maintain its free-to-use status, FamilyTreeNow is plastered in ads — and many of them are both misleading and misleadingly placed.