How to scrub your private data from 'people finder' sites

The internet has your number—among many other deets. Prevent identity theft and doxxing by erasing yourself from aggregator sites like Spokeo and PeekYou

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But all this effort removes you from only the free search. Whitepages Premium users (paid subscribers) will still be able to find your listing. To remove your data from the Premium search, you have to submit a support ticket via the Premium Help Page. Click on the blue Help button (not green as the FAQ states), select Information Removal Request from the Ticket Type menu, and submit your full name and address along with the URL of the premium listing.

Note that Whitepages doesn’t say it will remove or delete your information, but will “suppress” it. That’s because the information remains available for Pro subscribers, which are typically companies that pay for a business subscription to automatically verify information about customers to prevent fraud.

Opt out? Why would you do that?

Sadly, many sites won’t let you opt out at all. There are more than 200 brokers listed on the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse database, and the vast majority fails to offer a method to remove your information.

Some sites don’t even pretend to care. The aggregator Pipl, for example, simply states, “As a search engine, we are not the publisher of the information; we simply find and index what is already publicly available to anyone on the internet.” Pipl doesn’t even offer a selection to filter out information from search results as other sites do.

The aggregator MyLife goes a step further: Its business model seems to rest on fooling privacy-conscious users. Though there’s an Edit/Remove My Info button right on top of the listing page, that page doesn’t lead to an opt-out process, even after you create an account. The Remove Your Public Profiles text under Services in the page footer is not an active link. According to the privacy policy, none of the information can be removed, but if you sign up for a Premium account, you can “hide” the information from showing up in public searches.

Going the distance

Opting out is not a one-time process. Aggregators regularly hoover up new data, which means information may get added back at any time. Whitepages explains this up front: “Whitepages continuously discovers new information, so please check back regularly to make sure your information is shown correctly.” Or not shown, as the case may be.

Vigilance is important. In this day of doxxing and identity theft, making it harder to find information about you is a good thing. But if you prefer to pay a privacy service like DeleteMe to handle it, no one would blame you.

This story, "How to scrub your private data from 'people finder' sites" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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