Let’s say you want to find out what an old friend is up to. If you search her name online, you’ll likely come across numerous so-called “people search sites” like Spokeo and PeopleFinder. As we’ve discussed before, these sites feature a shocking amount of personal information. In fact, you might find not only your friend’s name but also her phone number, address, criminal record, and other data—all readily available for free or sometimes for a small fee.
Does that seem creepy? It should, because although your motives may be innocent, anybody could run a similar search of your name, and not necessarily for a benign reason. So, how can you opt out of these people search sites?
- Limit public access to your private information to at least control how much information is available through people search sites. The sites rely in part on social networking accounts, so update your privacy settings. Also delete any old social media accounts that you no longer use.
- Enter your own name in search engines and see which people search sites say they have your personal information. Then go to each site and remove yourself from their databases. Each site will have its own protocols to do so, requiring anything from a few clicks to a faxed form or mailed letter. Worse, in the weeks and months ahead, you will need to search your name online again and again to find out if another people search site is listing your information or if one of the sites you already opted out of has started up again.
- Pay for a service that will remove your information from the data vendors that collect and sell your data to people search sites. These services will also make sure that your data is not added back in the future.
One example of a paid service is Abine’s DeleteMe service, which promises to delete your public profile, contact information, private photos, and other personal data from leading data sites like Addresses.com and PeopleSmart.com.
Abine’s and similar services will cost you a little bit of money, but it may be an investment worth making to protect your privacy and gain some peace of mind.