Want to hear something a little bit creepy? Anybody who's willing to pay online information brokers - aka people-search sites - can learn your phone number, address, criminal record and a lot more. Even more creepy? This information doesn't always come at a price. You could be giving it away.
Primary data brokers like Intelius collect information from public records. Secondary data brokers, like Spokeo, aggregate information from primary brokers and add data collected from social networks and other online sources.
Not only is it creepy, but having all this information floating around on the internet can have more dangerous effects too, mainly stemming from internet "trolls." If a troll gets a hold of your information, such as name, phone number, address, online accounts, etc., and then "drop box," releases your information online, hundreds or thousands of internet trolls can appear and start harassing you.
The scary thing is it's possible to get anyone's information, especially if a troll is willing to spend a few dollars. Almost everyone's information - including yours - is publicly available through a variety of "tracking" sites.
If you've got the willies just thinking about it, it might be a good time to search for yourself on these sites and remove yourself from their databases.
The privacy company Abine has a paid service called DeleteMe that removes your information from 25 major data vendors and makes sure you aren't added back. If you don't feel like paying, Abine also provides instructions for opting out of each service.
Each site's opt-out procedure is different; some even require letters and faxes! It will take some time, but it's worth it to preserve your privacy. You'll want to regularly check to make sure your information hasn't been put back.