Recently, I decided to search for my name and address on the internet. It was purely out of curiosity to see what I would find. What I saw terrified me. I saw my name (maiden and formerly married name), current address, previous addresses, past phone numbers, and connections to people related to me. My life was like an online map for all to see without my permission. My information was posted on sites known as “people search sites.” These sites also offer more information about me for a fee.
People search sites gather your information through online websites, social media, public, and sometimes private records. They have an automatic opt-in policy. They don’t ask if they can consolidate your data and post it. They just do it.
Many users of people search sites use them to reconnect with old friends and other reasons that do not cause harm. However, the data can be weaponized. For many domestic violence survivors, seeing their personal information online is like setting their safety plan(s) on fire. If perpetrators of abuse want to continue to victimize survivors, they can use people search sites as their agents in helping them to terrorize survivors.
Survivors of domestic violence should not have to worry that their personal information is online, without their permission, for the world to see. People search sites claim that their main goal is to connect people who have lost touch with one another. That may have been the case in the beginning. Now they are data mining, and people looking to invade your privacy can do so with a click of their mouse.
The privacy issues surrounding people search sites are enormous, and the rules governing what they can or cannot disclose are confusing or don’t exist. It is our goal to provide you with some practical ways to guard your identity against these sites:
- People search sites do have an opt-out policy. It’s not easily seen on their websites. Below are websites that can help you opt-out of some of these sites. Please note, it is not a complete list of people search sites.
- Be conscious of what you post on social media including pictures with identifiable backgrounds.
- There are online reputation service companies that can assist you in removing your data online for a fee.
- Check for your personal information on the web from time to time and when it is safe to do so.
Learn More. Articles about people search sites are below:
National Network To End Domestic Violence-
https://www.techsafety.org/peoplesearchesanddatabrokers (The article gives a process to opt-out of Intelius and Zabasearch, which requires you to mail/fax your request to them. They now have an online opt-out process on their website. It is one opt-out process for both. Intelius owns Zabasearch: http://intelius.com/optout.