What are People Search Websites?Jan. 27, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
Are you familiar with people search sites? Have you ever looked someone up on one? Have you ever looked yourself up? There is, surprisingly, a lot of information you can find on someone by looking them up on a people search website.
The limited privacy laws in the US let people search companies act relatively unrestricted. The General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and other countries with stronger privacy laws have limited what people search websites can do which protects individuals’ privacy. However, in the US, individuals have very little legal protection from data brokers collecting information about them.
People Search websites gather information on people from many sources, combine it and sell it or at least display it. People search websites are a subset of data brokers. The types of data they gather are much narrower than general data brokers.
People search websites focus on demographic information. They generally have names, addresses, phone numbers, and sometimes email addresses, and the names of relatives or others associated with your address or name.
People search sites make money a number of different ways. Some of them charge customers to see the information they are looking for about a person. It is often an expensive subscription with a cheap introductory price. Some people search sites will show you some of the information and require you to pay to see the full profile. Other people search sites display all the information they have and make money on ads and referrals to bigger or more established people search sites.
Where do they get your information?
Similar to data brokers, people search companies get your information any way they can. This includes both reputable and questionable sources.
- They scrape it off of other legitimate and questionable websites
- They get it from data breaches that have essentially become public data
- They scrape public records (county records website)
- They purchase or acquire it from services you use (utilities, loyalty programs, etc.)
Why do they matter?
They have your information. It is frustrating to find data about yourself that you thought was private. In most cases, it is not data that you gave anyone with the intent that it would end up searchable and online.
Anyone can look you up: a client, a coworker, a stalker, a curious neighbor, or a scammer looking for targets. It takes less than a minute to check someone on one of these sites. The paid sites might have better information, but some of the free sites still have a staggering amount of detail on some of their profiles.
Bad things can be done with your data. If someone wanted to, there are a number of things they could do. They could steal your identity. They could scam you. They could dox (share your personal information as a form of harassment) you. They could stalk you.
Examples of people search websites
Spokeo – A US-based company that gathers and sells information on American consumers. They have experienced numerous privacy complaints and legal troubles.
Intelius – A US-based company that is in the public records business. They have also experienced consumer complaints and lawsuits.
Been Verified – A US-based company that sells background checks. They have come under scrutiny in the past for their opt-out process.
Nuwber – A company with ties to Belarus. Some of their profiles are extremely detailed.
InfoTracer – A US-based company that collects and sells information on American consumers.
There are many more people search sites. Check out our covered sites page to see more.
What can you do?
See how bad it is. You can get a free scan through our website (we only check a handful of sites since most of them take longer than 30 seconds to check) or you can look yourself up on some of the sites. True People Search, Nuwber, and Radaris generally have detailed profiles.
To make it so your data doesn’t appear on these sites in the first place, you need to change your online and offline habits. Signing up for things in your real name and sharing your personal information with lots of businesses is one of the main ways your information gets onto these sites. Take a look at our Online Alias Strategy article to learn where to start.
To get your information off of these websites, you need to opt out. All of the legitimate people search sites have a way to opt out of their service. It can be cumbersome and complicated, but it is possible. You can find a list of these sites and go to them one-by-one and opt yourself out. You can also pay to have us take care of it. We are experts in getting people's information off of these sites, and can give you peace of mind knowing your information is not easily found by a neighbor or potential identity thief.