Getting your name on people search sites almost impossible

Because people search sites are often acquired by other companies, I had a hard time figuring out which was which. The withdrawal processes have also changed frequently. Worse yet, companies continually searched for driver’s license registration records, voter registration databases, and U.S. Postal Service address information, creating lists to replace the ones I had deleted. It all struck me as deeply unfair. Data brokers were making money on me, but I never volunteered to be turned into a product.

Even Pam Dixon from the WPF has struggled to remove her personal information from these sites, and she works on privacy issues for a living. In the end, I gave in and joined a service called DeleteMe that charges $ 129 per year for removing information that should be protected initially. (Reputation Defender and OneRep offer similar services.) That didn’t completely solve the problem – even dedicated services are missing some people search sites. And such subscriptions are not an option for many people, especially at a time when many Americans have lost their jobs or suffered wage cuts. “Privacy cannot be reserved for the rich and privileged,” Dixon says. “We need to provide free, easy, efficient and sustainable withdrawal options. “

Spokeo CEO Harrison Tang said the company has made an effort to offer a straightforward opt-out process. “At the end of the day, it’s about control,” he says. But Tang acknowledges that Spokeo profiles are partially generated from constantly updated public folders. This is part of the reason that listings can keep showing even to people who don’t want their data to appear on the site.

Jessica Tunon now lives in Washington, DC, where she is constantly vigilant in trying to minimize the personal information she shares with any agency that feeds the public records. It is a permanent struggle. When she started a home-based business, the networking and wellness company Netwalking, the district Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs needed a physical address. She signed up with one but then fought to have it replaced with a PO box; the effort lasted five years. As a precaution, she refrained from doing any marketing in the meantime. “The hardest part was not being able to work on my business because my address was online,” she says.

Tunon then helped lobby for an address privacy program in Washington, DC, which began in 2018. It allows survivors of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and human trafficking to receive treatment. mail to a fictitious address. A handful of states have book laws that regulate people search sites. Vermont has required data brokers to register with the Secretary of State since January 1, 2019, a step that is the first step in exposing which outfits are taking advantage of people’s data. Assistant Attorney General Ryan Kriger, who helped shape Vermont law, says industry lobbyists fought it tooth and nail. “The data broker industry had never been regulated before and they wanted to keep it that way,” says Kriger. “It’s the only industry I can think of that thrives on not letting anyone know it exists. “

Today, says Tunon, her information continues to appear on people search sites, prompting her to regularly Google herself to check what has leaked out. She’s become an expert in all of this, but what happens to someone who speaks minimal English? Who doesn’t have a stable internet connection? Who can’t spend months deleting their information because they face immediate threats?

Before I started paying to protect my data, I also found that my information was reappearing online. Five months after retiring from a data broker, my profile reappeared. When I clicked on my name, the page showed a satellite photo of a house where I had lived. I imagined people across America encountering similar images of their homes, as they sat in front of their computers, desperately trying to keep the information offline.

Related links:

How to remove your information from people search sites

Filter hate speech, hoaxes and violence from social feeds

CR’s Guide to Digital Security and Privacy

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