The things we do throughout the day give businesses access to information about our habits, tastes, and activities. Businesses know that this information is valuable. In fact, companies known as data brokers collect information about us and sell or share it with others. People search sites are a type of data broker.
To build a report about you, people search sites may buy information from other data brokers, collect information from social media profiles that are public or viewable by everyone, and compile data from federal, state, and local government public records.
Information from public records may include
- property records
- driving records
- voter registration information
- criminal records, civil actions, and judgments
- birth, marriage, divorce, and death records
- professional licenses, like those for pilots, doctors, lawyers, or architects
If someone has just one piece of information about you, like your name or phone number, they could buy a report that tells them a lot about you, like
- your age, date of birth, and gender
- other names you’ve used
- your current and previous addresses
- properties you’ve bought or sold
- your marital status
- your education and employment history
- criminal records and civil records including bankruptcies, liens, and judgments
- the name and address of your family members
People buy these reports for many different reasons: some might want to find an old friend, look up a potential love interest, or connect with a neighbor.
But some people, like survivors of domestic violence or stalking, may not want anyone to find out where they live, or the name and address of their family members.
Most people search sites have a way for you to tell them to stop selling your information. That’s also called opting out.
People search sites will let you opt out of sharing certain types of information, like your address or phone number, but not other information, like sex offender status.
There are two ways to opt out of people search sites:
- do it on your own, one by one, for free, or
- pay a service to opt out for you
After you opt out, the people search site will stop selling your existing information.
But opting out of people search sites might not fix all your privacy concerns. For example, your information may still appear in the reports of your relatives, neighbors, or associates. And if the information in your public records changes, your information could re-appear for sale on people search sites.
Furthermore, opting out of people search sites doesn’t delete your information from public records, so someone could find public records about you on a government website.
Whether you do it yourself or use a service, the process of opting out may require you to give some information to verify your identity.
Opting out of people search sites yourself
Before you begin, know that there are a lot of people search sites. If you don’t know of any people search sites by name, check this guide from the National Network to End Domestic Violence or this list from the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Opting out of people search sites one by one could be a time-consuming process. Follow these steps to opt out:
- Search for your name or other identifying information on a people search site. Start with information like a phone number or address.
- If you find a report with information about you, look for a link or information about opting out, and follow the steps. If you can’t find an opt-out link on the website, do an online search using the name of the people search site and phrases like “opt out” or “remove my information”.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 on other people search sites.
Periodically check the people search sites. If you find any new information about yourself, submit a new opt-out request.
Using a service to opt out
Paid services will take the steps to opt you out of people search sites. Before you sign up for a service, find out
- how many websites it covers
- if it’ll give you a report about the sites it’s opted you out of
- how often it’ll scan those sites and delete information that has re-appeared or new information it finds
Opting out of people search sites is one way to protect your personal information. Here are more ways to protect your privacy online.