Remove Your Data From People-Finder Sites

Remove Your Data From People-Finder Sites – You might be unaware, but a substantial amount of your personal information could potentially be accessible to the public online, readily available to anyone conducting a search. This information encompasses details such as your name, age, address, phone number, email address, relationship status, and even records from legal proceedings. Numerous websites offer access to this information, often in exchange for a nominal fee, and while it is conceivable to have your information removed from these platforms, the process can prove to be quite challenging.

Remove Your Data From People-Finder Sites

It can be quite a surprise to visit a site like Spokeo, Intellius, MyLife, or BeenVerified (try it RIGHT NOW) —commonly known as data brokers or people-finding sites—and see all your information listed for anyone to see. But how are they even getting it?

Often, it comes from scraping public records. For example, if you own a home, that real estate transaction is public record. They draw from all sorts of sources.

They can also grab information from social media sites, warranty cards you’ve submitted, sweepstakes you’ve entered, and other places you’ve submitted your own information, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

While it can be disconcerting to witness your data exposed, it’s essential to manage your expectations before delving into the opt-out process outlined below. Achieving a complete removal of your online presence is unrealistic, as new websites continuously emerge and re-scrape your data. It’s akin to a game of whack-a-mole, and the effort involved may not even justify your time.

Taking action becomes more valuable when you find yourself as an individual target. If you’re experiencing harassment or happen to be a semi-public figure with pressing privacy concerns, opting out of these websites can be a worthwhile endeavor. However, for others, the process might pose more challenges than it’s worth. Yet, if you’re prepared to invest the time or have immediate privacy concerns, there are two primary methods to accomplish this.

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Remove Your Data From People-Finder Sites

Do It Yourself: Hit the Sites One at a Time

You have a few options when it comes to removing your information from these people-finders. The first option—which is free but quite time-consuming—is to opt out one by one, manually.

This process is different for each site, and listing the steps for every one would be unhelpful, as the how-to could go out of date quickly. Luckily, there are two services that maintain detailed, up-to-date guidelines for the horde of data brokers out there: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and DeleteMe. Browse those pages for step-by-step instructions for the most common people-finding sites.

But ironically, even as you’re trying to get your information off the web, some sites may require you send in even more of your personal information in order to wipe your slate clean.

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For example, Radaris and WhitePages both ask you to give them your phone number to prove your identity before opting out. Others may require you to call them on the phone and give them your address, or even mail a copy of your driver’s license. Some services require you to create an account in order to remove your information.

All this may not seem terrible on its own, but repeat the process for tens of sites and it can become overwhelming. Plus, they’re constantly re-scraping.

So, one could go through their tortuous opt-out processes, make it your weekend project for months, and by the time you’re done, some of the first sites you opted out of might have already re-scraped. YIKES!

The Automated Method: Pay a Subscription to Have It Done for You

Another option is to sign up for a service that does the heavy lifting for you. Privacy Duck and DeleteMe are two of the big ones. You submit a name for removal, and they’ll send you reports along the way.

These sites are rather expensive, though—Privacy Duck starts at $99 for six months, and that only removes you from 12 sources. Spring for their premium service ($500 per year), and they’ll get your information off 86 sites. DeleteMe costs $129 per year for one person and covers 23 sources. So you can see how this can get costly, and again, as soon as you stop, those sites could begin re-scraping. Not to mention there are more sites being created all the time.

Maybe it’s worthwhile if you’re a public figure who has an urgent risk. The danger of being doxxed is terrifying. Folks in academia, particularly professors of color, have experienced doxxing a lot recently without a lot of institutional support.

If your case is similar, you may want to build all the walls you can. Just remember it’s difficult, if not impossible, to wipe your information from the web completely—there are only ways to make it a bit harder to find. But that’s still something.

Have an experience you’d like to share or a comment? Comment below…

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