People-search sites: frequently asked questions
What you need to know about these sites—and how to protect yourself from them
What are people-search sites?
People-search websites and other data brokers collect, publicly list, and sell your personal data. These websites scrape publicly available information from a huge variety of sources and package it up into comprehensive profiles. They then sell these profiles to anyone who wants access.
Is it legal for these sites to display my information?
Unfortunately, YES. People-search sites aren’t very transparent about where specific information comes from, but generally speaking, they pull from government records, social media, and marketing databases. All of these are sources that are technically accessible to anyone, so people-search sites aren’t releasing new information. They simply collect what’s out there into a single profile.
Has your personal information been exposed online?
What types of information are on people-search sites?
Everything from your name and address to shopping habits, political contributions, business or real estate activities, and religious views. Here are some of their biggest sources for data:
- Social netwoks
- Real estate transactions
- Marriage licenses and divorce decrees
- Unsealed lawsuits or legal actions
- Criminal records
- Marketing database
- Birth and death certificates
- Census statistics
- Voter registrations
- Drivers licenses
- Utility companies
- Government spending reports
- Political campaign contributions
- Trademark filings
- Business and entity filings
- Professional and business licenses
How many people-search sites are out there?
Dozens. RPI maintains a rolling list of the active people-search sites for our removal services, adding and removing sites as appropriate.
Can I get public records removed?
Not usually. Certain types of government information are considered “public records” under the law, which means that anyone has the right to access them.
If you have a privacy or security issue related to a public record, you should contact the official custodian (usually the county clerk) of that record to see if it can be sealed. The process usually requires a court order.
How do I get my information removed from people-search sites?
Most people-search sites have opt-out procedures. You can follow the instructions for each site and have your information removed, but it is time-consuming and needs to be repeated regularly. Remove Personal Information privacy services automate this process for you.
How do I prevent people-search sites from collecting my information?
As a rule, avoid supplying personal information to companies, online and offline. You’d be surprised how often your information is collected: when you order something online, send in a warranty card, sign up for a social networking site, or enter a sweepstakes.
How often will new records about me appear on people-search sites?
New information is always being generated about you, which can ultimately lead to new profiles on people-search sites. Even after you’ve opted out, a new profile can appear if a variation on your personal information appears. That’s why RPI verifies removals for all of our privacy clients on a regular basis.