We live in a time when we are constantly worried about our safety and privacy while searching the internet. Particularly knowing that we have entered our contact and financial information on multiple websites.
What is perhaps most unnerving is learning that our personal information has somehow made its way to a people search site, easily accessed by Google even though we did not choose to give our information to these services.
People-Search sites make your personal information easy to find
It is estimated that there are over 300 million searches a day for personal names and information, accessed by billions of people-search websites indexed by Google.
Understandably, this makes people very concerned about their privacy and just how much information about them is out there and easily accessed by the internet.
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How does your private information get to these ‘people search’ sites?
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Data brokers collect, analyze and sell personal information about you for various purposes. Some of the sources that data brokers use to obtain data are:
Public records: These are documents or information that are available to anyone by law, such as census data, voter registration, court records, property deeds, licenses, etc. Data brokers can access these records online or offline and compile them into databases.
Online activity: This includes the websites you visit, the searches you make, the ads you click on, the products you buy, the reviews you write, the social media posts you like or share, etc.
Data brokers can track your online behavior using cookies, web beacons, device identifiers and other technologies. They can also buy data from other websites or platforms that you use or sign up for.
Offline activity: This includes the purchases you make in physical stores, the subscriptions you have, the surveys you fill out, the loyalty programs you join, the events you attend, etc. Data brokers can obtain this data from retailers, marketers, publishers or other sources that have your consent to share your information.
Data brokers use various methods to link data from different sources and create detailed profiles of individuals. They may use personal identifiers such as name, email address, phone number or Social Security number to match data across sources.
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How data brokers use your data
Data brokers sell or license their data products to third parties for various purposes, such as:
People search and background check: Data brokers provide data to help individuals or businesses find or verify information about other people. They may also help conduct background checks for employment, dating, renting, etc.
Marketing and advertising: Data brokers provide data to help marketers and advertisers target potential customers based on their interests, preferences, behaviors, demographics, etc. They may also help measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and optimize ad delivery.
Risk mitigation and fraud prevention: Data brokers provide data to help businesses verify the identity and creditworthiness of customers or partners. They may also help detect and prevent fraud, identity theft, money laundering, etc.
There are few laws that limit what data they can collect and how they can use it. There are also a few ways for you to control or access your own data. Some data brokers offer opt-out options for you if you do not want your data to be collected or shared.
However, these options are often hard to find or use and may not be effective in removing all traces of data from their databases.
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Ways to protect your personal information
This begs the question, is there a way to protect your personal information or at least control how much of your information is accessible via search engines?
Request your personal information be removed from ‘people search’ sites
The answer is yes. While it is possible for you to go to each site and manually request your information be removed, you’d be doing this non-stop. Unfortunately, there is no regulation when it comes to these data brokers; just because you remove your data from the web doesn’t mean the data brokers aren’t going to resell it again months from now.
Invest in removal services
Therefore, investing in removal services is a worthwhile option for protecting your privacy and security online. A hacker can’t easily use you as a target if they can’t find your information on the internet. Data broker sites run by scammers get fed with the personal data a hacker steals from you, including email addresses, Social Security numbers and more. They do this so that they can sell the information to third parties and make a profit.
While no service promises to remove all your data from the internet, subscribing to a good removal service is the most effective way to constantly monitor and automate the process of deleting your information from hundreds of sites continuously.
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Use Google’s privacy tool to remove your personal information
You can also use Google’s privacy tool to remove your personal information from their search engine. Google’s “Results about You” tool was rolled out last year. Google says it has been working hard to make things better since it first launched its software.
It launched with the intention of allowing users to request the removal of personal information that pops up during Google searches. Personal information can include a phone number, email address, address or even unwanted images. You can request the removal of Google search results that divulge your personal information.
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Use alias email addresses
One other way to safeguard your personal data from being exposed on “people search” sites is to use alias email addresses. An alias email address is an additional email address that can be used to receive emails in the same mailbox as the primary email address. It acts as a forwarding address, directing emails to the primary email address.
In addition to creating throwaway email accounts for online sign-ups and other circumstances where you would not want to disclose your primary email address, alias email addresses are helpful for handling and organizing incoming communications.
Sometimes, it’s best to create various email aliases so that you don’t have to worry about getting tons of spam mail and having your email eventually stolen in a data breach. An alias email address is a great way for you to stop receiving constant spam mail by simply deleting the email alias address.
See my review of best secure and private email services
Kurt’s key takeaways
“People-search” sites and data brokers pose a serious threat to your privacy and security. They collect, sell and expose your personal information without your consent or knowledge. You can fight back by deleting your data from their databases and using reliable tools and services that safeguard your identity and data.
How do you feel about the way data brokers and “people search” sites collect and use your personal information? Have you ever tried to remove your data from their databases? If so, what was your experience? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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