There are hundreds of sites online that provide your personal information to anybody with a Web browser. Known as people-finder, people-search, or whitepages sites, some of the most common of these sites include Spokeo, MyLife, PeopleSmart, US Search, and Intelius.
If you’ve seen one of these sites in your search results, you know it can be an unnerving experience. People-finder services often give away tons of personal information about you to anyone who wants it, including:
- Your name and names of relatives
- Addresses and aerial satellite home photos
- Phone numbers and previous addresses
- Financial information and work history
- Age and date of birth
Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions we get at ReputationDefender is how to get your information removed from these sites. In this article, we’ve compiled instructions for the most common sites.
What are people-finder sites and why are they legal?
People-finder sites are sort of like search engines for people. They crawl the Web, looking for information about people, and then they compile what they find into comprehensive profiles.
Since all of the information these sites find is already publicly available, they’re not technically violating any privacy laws by reposting it. Public records published by the government often provide a solid foundation for their profiles, which they can then round out with social media data, news posts, insights from marketing databases and more.
To get yourself off of these sites, you need to follow each site’s specific opt-out procedures. These vary greatly, so be sure to read the following instructions carefully.
Before you start: get a disposable email account
Many people-finder sites require you to register for an account or claim your profile in order to remove it. This usually involved signing up with an email address.
Your goal is to get off these sites—not to sign up for their marketing email lists— so you’ll want to avoid using your regular email address. Instead, create a brand new account that you will only use for the removal process. A common choice might be email@example.com. You can use any email provider you like, just make sure don’t use an email address you might need for something else.
Site-specific removal instructions
Spokeo provides an opt-out page that is fairly simple to use. Simply enter the URL of the profile you want to remove and your email address.
Please note, however, that you may have more than one profile on Spokeo. Often, different variations on your name or address will lead to new profiles. In order to make sure you remove yourself entirely, search Spokeo for different combinations of your name in every city you’ve ever lived in.
To remove yourself from MyLife, follow these steps:
- Visit your profile on MyLife
- Click on “Yes, this is me!”
- Continue through the claiming process, removing personal information to the greatest extent possible, and using your disposable email
- Call MyLife customer support at 1-888-704-1900 and tell them that you’d like to delete your profile
- Register for an account with PeopleSmart (use your disposable email)
- Visit PeopleSmart’s Opt Out Tool
- Fill out the requested information
Intelius removals are a little more complicated and require you to submit a copy of your driver’s license along with other documentation. For the complete set of steps, see our article specifically on Intelius removals.
You can remove yourself from most of US Search’s databases by writing the company a letter (emails and telephone calls don’t work for this purpose) that includes the following information:
- A statement asking to join US Search’s PrivacyLock service
- Your full name (and any aliases), your email and mailing addresses (including past addresses), your telephone number (including past numbers) and any other information you’d like removed
- Proof of identification. For US Search’s purposes, this means a copy of your state-issued driver’s license or ID card with all information blacked out except your name, address and date of birth.
Mail the letter to:
600 Corporate Pointe, Suite 220
Culver City, CA 90230
Additional things to watch for
Unfortunately, getting people-finder sites out of your life is more complicated than simply issuing a few removal requests. These sites have a vested interest in making it as hard as possible to truly get your information removed, and there are a few pitfalls you need to watch for:
- Upsells: Oftentimes, they’ll try to sell you a subscription to one of their products during the opt-out process. Read all the fine print carefully. It should never cost you anything to get off of a people-finder site.
- Name variations: These sites usually make multiple profiles for the same person under different name variations. You’ll need to do a thorough search on each site to find all of your potential profiles.
- Recreated profiles: If some new piece of information about you appears online, or if someone with a similar name moves to a new address, a new profile may get created for you automatically. That’s because most of these people-finder sites assume all variations are a brand new person. You’ll have to go through the opt-out process again.
Automatic, ongoing opt-outs
As you can see, protecting your privacy from people-finder sites requires a fair amount of sleuthing and ongoing monitoring. The amount of time involved is discouraging for many people. That’s why ReputationDefender offers a suite of privacy services that automate the opt-out process for you and monitor for any new profiles on a regular basis. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’re also happy to answer any other questions you might have about people-finder sites or your online privacy.