Today you'll learn how to opt-out and remove your personal data from people search engine sites.
The opt-out procedures will be shown at the bottom of this post, for those who want to skip ahead.
In case you didn't know.
Your sensitive personal information, including your name, phone number, home address and even financial records are visible on the web.
This means anyone can access that information if they wanted to.
If that doesn't scare you. Something common amongst internet trolls and cybercriminals is what's called doxxing.
In essence, doxxing is when an attacker will threaten to leak or expose your personal information to the world if you fail to meet their demand.
The bad news:
Doxxers, criminals and internet trolls don't have to work very hard in order to find information about their victims. And it's all thanks to people search sites.
If you've never heard of people search sites or people search engines.
It's a website that allows anyone to freely look up information about specific individuals. Hence the term: people search engines.
Such sites were designed to make it easy for people to find long lost relatives, friends or family. But of course, as you may have guessed, many people have been using it for more nefarious purposes.
Popular Free People Search Engines
There are many people search sites on the web.
If you've ever used one before, you'd know that most of them require a payment to view the information.
But there's also a few sites which are free and provide accurate data.
A very popular one you might've heard of is WhitePages.
Other alternatives to WhitePages:
I have provided the steps to opt out from these sites at the end of this post.
How Do People Search Sites Obtain My Information?
These websites obtain our information in a variety of ways, both offline and online.
And believe it or not, these companies don't even need to put a gun to our heads to obtain our information.
Why? Because we're already giving it away freely!
Such as when you fill out a form or a survey or when you make a purchase or when you register for promotional material.
The details you submit in those forms you fill out are stored and shared with third parties without your knowledge.
That's why if you've ever signed up for a free offer, and a few days later, you started receiving more offers about a similar service.
Most information is taken from public sources including (but not limited to):
- Telephone directories
- Business data
- Property listings
- Vehicle records
- Social networking sites
- Online directories, blogs and forums
Each time you fill out and submit a form with your personal details - there's always a possibility your data will be shared and resold.
How To Protect Yourself and Your Personal Info (online and offline)
In today's digital age, people are freely broadcasting and sharing information about themselves online.
Social media, for example, is the best place to find information about people, especially since almost everyone you know has one.
Social media sites is also where, people search engines like WhitePages, like to obtain information about people.
In addition, many employers will use social media to look up a person before hiring them, just to see who they really are underneath - another reason why to be careful with what you share online.
The more social media profiles you have and the more active you are on the internet, the easier it is for people to find and track your digital footprints.
The good news:
There are steps you can take to reduce your digital footprint and protect yourself online and offline.
- Use multiple email accounts each with a different alias (i.e. don't use the same email for banking and for shopping, etc)
- When in doubt, use a fake identity when signing up for random and irrelevant things.
- Use a temporary email for non-important, temporary stuff (i.e. when signing up for free offers or creating an account on a random website)
- Don't give out your personal information to anyone, online and offline (unless you're 100% sure you trust the other party).
- Be careful what you share on social media and on the internet in general. Anything you share online will remain online forever.
- Use cash or disposable credit cards for most online and offline purchases to minimize your footprints and prevent tracking.
- Practice safe online browsing habits. Use browser extensions that block tracking, clear your cookies regularly, avoid linking accounts together.
How To Accurately Find Information About You on Google
If you don't find any traces of your identity on most people search sites, I wouldn't break out the champagne bottle just yet.
Another method used to find information about anything, including a person is through Google.
Google has what's known as Advanced Search Operators which allow you to narrow down your searches to exact keywords or phrases.
Of course, this method won't show you all your data (if any), only the pages that have been indexed by Google.
Here's how to do it:
First go on google and type the following:
This will show you a list of websites that contain the word/phrase "username" in the URL.
Go ahead and replace "username" with your username or an online alias that you use, and see what you find.
Here are other search operators you can try for yourself:
Find all pages that contain the exact phrase in that order
Find all pages with "username" in the URL
Find all pages that contain "john snow" in the page title
Find all pages that have ".." in the body text of a page
It's bad privacy practice to use the same username on multiple websites/platforms. Doing so will make it easier to find you online.
Those are just some example as to how powerful advanced searches can be when used correctly.
How To Opt Out From Popular People Search Sites
Now I'll be showing you how to remove your profile from some of the most popular people search sites.
Something to keep in mind:
Removing yourself from these sites don't guarantee your data will be removed forever.
In fact, it's almost certain it will re-appear again in the future, and sometimes in different variations.
For as long as our information is being collected, there's always going to be a possibility that we'll end up again on one or most of these sites.
This is why you must set time to repeat this process on a regular basis.
WhitePages is perhaps the most popular people search site on the web. You can find information about people and businesses. Here's how to remove yourself from whitepages.
You do have to create an account in order to opt-out.
- Search yourself on WhitePages, then copy the URL of your profile. It should look like this:
- Create an account (if you haven't already). Then scroll to the footer (bottom) menu and click "Remove From Directory". Then paste the URL of your profile.
- For the last step, they need to verify your identity via automated call. Don't worry, you just have to press a number and that's it. No need to talk to humans.
Intelius is another popular people search site where you can perform comprehensive background checks. To remove your profile, you can do it via fax, post mail or through their website. Intelius has a more strict opt-out procedure as they require proof of identification such as an ID or driver's license.
- Go to the Intelius opt out page.
- Take a picture of your driver's license. Then as required, cross out your photo and driver's license number.
- Click "Browse" then upload your photo ID. To be notified when your listing has been removed, enter your email.
In addition to name, phone and address search, Spokeo lets you find social media profiles and pictures that are tied to an email address. The opt-out procedure for Spokeo is fairly simple.
- Search yourself on Spokeo and then copy the URL of your profile. It should look like this:
- Then go to the opt-out page and enter the URL of your profile.
- Enter your email then click "Send Verification Email". Then check your email and click "Verify Opt Out".
If you have multiple profiles on BeenVerified, you have to reach out to them and tell them to remove another listing because they only allow you to opt-out once per email.
- Go to BeenVerified opt-out page, where you'll be asked to search yourself.
- Then find your profile(s), then click "That's The One".
- Enter your email then click "Send Verification Email". Next, check your email and click "Verify Opt Out".
FamilyTreeNow is perhaps the most accurate one of them all, at least from my experience. They show not only accurate information about you, your family, and people you associate with, but they also hold data from decades ago.
- Go to the opt-out page of FamilyTreeNow, and click "Begin opt-out procedure."
- You'll be asked to search yourself.
- Click on your profile(s), make sure it's you, then click the red button that says "Opt Out".
InstantCheckMate is used for performing background checks. The loading takes quite a while but the information is almost always accurate. They let you opt-out via post mail or through their website.
- Go to the opt-out page of InstantCheckMate
- Fill out the form using the exact information shown on their site.
- To remove multiple profile listings, you'll need to re-submit multiple forms.
PeekYou is particularly useful for finding social media profiles of people using their username or an alias they go. Here's how to remove yourself from peekyou:
- Search yourself on PeekYou and then copy the unique ID of your profile, which is the last digits shown in the URL that looks like this:
- Go to PeekYou opt-out page then enter your information.
- For actions, select "Remove My Entire Listing", followed by the reason for removal. Then enter the unique ID of your profile then click "Submit".
Pipl is a little different since they don't give you an option to opt-out. If your information is shown on their site, that's because it's available from other sources. If you look yourself up, they tell you where exactly they're getting your information from.
Once you remove your data from those sites, your listing on Pipl will be removed.
- Go to pipl and look yourself up.
- On the results page, click on your name then scroll down till you see a blue box that looks like the one in the image shown below.
- Here, you'll see a list of websites where Pipl is getting their information from. Your job now is to contact those sites and find out how to remove your data.
You can use this email script to contact the website owner and ask them to remove your profile.
Hello [site name],
I was searching for myself on Google and I came across this url of my profile:
[insert profile url]
Due to privacy concern, can you please remove it so that it doesn't appear in search engine results.
Tell the site owner you're being harassed by someone and you're trying to remove traces of your info online. That way, they'll be compelled to remove it right away.
More People Search Engine Sites
Here are other people search engine sites that are worth checking to see if your information is shown.
Overall, privacy is something that's very rare to have on the internet.
Everything you do online is being tracked and saved in a database somewhere. If not by the websites you visit, by your internet service provider.
And as long as we're online, our data will be collected.
Do your loved ones a favor and remove their profile listings as well. Or better yet, share this article with them!