People search sites and data brokers have information on nearly every single US consumer. It’s more important than ever to safeguard your privacy online and opt out of data brokers and people search sites retaining your information. It’s important to know that these sites usually allow users to opt themselves out and remove their own records for free. Do not let a data broker or data broker removal service convince you that you need to pay if you’d rather do it yourself. That said, finding, removing, and monitoring dozens of people search sites can be very time-consuming. BrandYourself’s Data Broker Removal/Monitoring tool automatically identifies and removes your personal data from some of the most common data brokers and people search sites. If you prefer to handle the removal process yourself, we’ve provided the FREE Opt-Out Guides below.
Most common data brokers (and how to opt out of them)
Click to access the free opt out instructions for each data broker/people search website.
Additional data brokers
What is a data broker?
Data brokers, quite simply, are companies that buy and sell consumer information and data.
There are a few different types of data brokers that leverage this data for different purposes:
- Marketing & Advertising – these data brokers focus on the marketing power of data. They compile databases containing consumer profiles (demographic info, online behavior, spending power, etc.) and sell this information to companies specifically for marketing purposes.
- Risk-Mitigation & Fraud Detection – these data brokers use consumer data to offer ID verification & fraud detection to other companies. They are also able to use consumer profiles to provide insight to a company as to the “risk” of working with the person in question. One common use case of this technology is a bank getting a risk report on a consumer before issuing a loan.
- People Search Sites – consumer-facing websites that allow users to search and find information on an individual.
What to know about people search sites
Let’s take a closer look at people search sites. These are the most public-facing types of data brokers. You’ve likely seen them on the web or even used one of them to look someone up.
There are quite a few of these sites but some of the more popular sites include Whitepages, MyLife, BeenVerified, Spokeo, and Intelius.
They vary in terms of the type of information you can access but info can include your address, phone number, relatives, social media history, education, court & criminal records, income, property records, and more. Most allow you to access some basic information with each search and then charge a premium for access to a full report.
These sites pose an additional risk simply because anyone can access this data.
Use cases may range from conducting a background check on a new babysitter to scoping out a new love interest, to general curiosity about what info you can find on someone. However, malicious use cases may include data mining for identity theft, or even stalking.
How do data brokers collect information?
Data brokers go about collecting information in a number of ways. They may collect it themselves or buy it from other companies. They also scrape the web and other third-party sites for publicly accessible information.
Some specific sources include public and government records, social media sites, purchase history & info, self-reported info (surveys, contest entries), and web behavior — just to name a few.
Data is big business so the methods by which these companies are compiling data – and the technology they use to do it – are constantly evolving.
What type of information do data brokers collect?
Most people aren’t aware of the true extent of information that is being bought and sold.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the types of information that a data broker may have about you:
- Employment history
- Net worth & income
- Marital status
- Court & legal records
- Arrest & criminal records
- Speeding tickets
- Voting records
- Social media profiles & activity
- Buying behavior
- Household data
- Property records
Are Data Brokers’ practices even legal?
The short answer? Yes. Since data brokers and people search sites are largely pulling from publicly available sources and data, they aren’t necessarily illegally obtaining the information.
As with most areas of technology and cyberlaw, the law is behind the quick evolution of the technology by which they obtain this information–and the extent of the information they retain. Until recently, unless a data broker fit the qualifications of a “credit reporting agency” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (most don’t), then there was little regulation of their behavior.
However, there has been some foreword progress in legislation that is a step in the right direction.
Vermont’s Protection of Private information Law
Enacted in 2018, Vermont’s law was one of the first chips to fall. It required that any company participating in the buying and selling of consumer personal data of Vermont residents must register with the state and allow for consumers to opt-out. Within just a few months, over 121 data brokers registered with the state.
For many, this law provided the first glimpse into the world of data brokers and uncovered just how prolific the amount of personal consumer data is out there.
Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
GDPR went into effect in 2018 and is related to the processing and recording of personal data. A lot goes into the regulation but the key takeaway is it provides guidance as to the responsible collection and processing of EU consumer data. It allows people the right to not only receive a copy of the data a company has about them but to also have it erased from the company’s database.
Protection under the regulation applies to citizens of the EU but the responsibility to adhere to the regulation applies to companies worldwide who work with the personal data of EU citizens. The regulation brings lofty fines for a company’s failure to comply.
The California Privacy Protection Act (CCPA)
The latest in regulation is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that went into effect in January of this year. It’s intended to provide California residents more visibility into the information that companies have retained about them as well as the ability to have that information removed and prevented from being sold. This applies to any company that collects consumer’s personal data, does business in California, and satisfies one of the following thresholds:
- Annual gross revenues above $25 million
- Buys, receives, or sells the personal info of 50k consumers or more
- Earns more than half of its annual revenue from selling consumer personal info
These legislatures are a move in the right direction by forcing data brokers to step up and better empower consumers to take control of the data they have on them.
What’s the risk of having my information out on the web?
We’ve touched on it already, but the more information publicly available about you, the greater chance you have of experiencing identity theft, hacks, stalking, unwanted spam, robocalls, and more.
The rise of data breaches makes us all even more vulnerable – an estimated 15 billion records were exposed in data breaches in 2019 alone.
We’re not here to fear-monger, but it’s important to be aware of these privacy risks.
For example, the exact type of information found on data brokers and people search sites, like your mother’s maiden name or where you went to high school, can be paired with information exposed in a breach to answer key security questions to your bank account.
Has your information been involved in a data breach by another company? Try out our Dark Web Scan feature to see if your personal information has been exposed on the dark web through a known data breach. Get your free scan.
Data Broker Opt-Out Timeline – How Long Does it Take?
Once you submit an opt-out request to a data broker or people search site, it can vary site-by-site for how long it takes for them to honor the opt-out request and remove your information.
Some sites will be instantaneous or within 24 hours. Some can take as long as 30-45 days to honor the request. On average, you can expect removal to take between 3-5 days. The reason it varies is because each site has its own removal request and review process – there’s no required uniformity across how data brokers handle opt-outs.
If you still see the listing up after some time, reach out to the data broker via their support channels.
Continue to Monitor Your Online Privacy
Even once you’re removed your information from data brokers, it’s crucial that you stay on top of actively protecting your privacy. This is important for 3 reasons:
- The listing may stay in search results for a while – Even if the listing is removed from a data broker’s website, it can still appear in Google search results for some time. This is because it can take time for Google to “re-crawl” the results and notice that the information has been taken down. This isn’t a permanent issue by any means, but is something you should be aware of.
- It’s common for data brokers to repost information – This is an unfortunate reality that we see quite often and for a number of reasons. Two main reasons include:
- How data brokers acquire personal data in the first place. Since data brokers are constantly scraping from so many different sources to fuel their databases, then they may inadvertently repost a record about you if your information crops up again on one of those sources.
- There may be multiple records of your name with different information. Since data brokers are pulling from so many different sources, it’s possible that some of the sources may have different or even inaccurate information. This can sometimes result in a data broker having two or more records on an individual. Most times, an opt-out request will take care of both records, but there are instances where you may need to go back and submit another opt-out request for the second listing.
- There are additional privacy risks outside of just data brokers – Data brokers may pose some privacy concerns, but it’s important to stay vigilant about other areas of your online presence. We’ve already discussed the risk of data breaches — in line with this, you should be mindful of what accounts you have created over time. Every time you buy something on a website, download an app, or sign up for a newsletter or “free offering”, you are creating an account with your information. If you think back, it’s probably A LOT. We created a free tool that identifies old accounts that you’ve signed up for and helps you to delete them. This helps mitigate the risk of your information being involved in a future data breach. Check it out here.
Now is the time to take better control of your privacy online. The first step is to understand which data brokers have your information (and the type of data they are storing), then you can begin the process of opting out. Fortunately, BrandYourself’s Protect Private Information feature makes it dead simple. Get started here.
Still not sure where to start? Give us a call at 646-863-8226 to speak with one of our experts.