When’s the last time you did a search for your own name online? It’s fascinating, and sometimes a little eerie, to click through the results.
Some things you’ll find are just plain wrong, but there’s likely a lot of real info about you and your life floating around the web that you never realized — from your address to your relatives to where you work.
So, where does all this info come from? There’s an entire network of websites that keep tabs on you and offer the data to the highest bidder. These “people search” and data broker sites crawl across social media and public records to build detailed personal profiles.
If you care about your online privacy, deleting yourself from the sites below is a great place to start. We’ll show you how.
How to opt out of the biggest data brokering websites
People search sites are in the business of building profiles based on public info scraped from across the internet. These profiles often contain sensitive data like phone numbers and addresses — and scam callers and mail spammers rely on these websites to scout prospects.
“Wait,” you might be thinking. “Is this legal?” It is, and data brokers are only able to get away it by giving people a chance to opt-out. Unfortunately, this is usually easier said than done. Many of these sites make you jump through hoops to delete yourself, with steps ranging from phone calls to faxing your driver’s license to prove who you are.
We’ll show you how to remove your data from two of the biggest people search sites on the web. This includes Intelius, which owns multiple data brokering websites, and BeenVerified. If you are short on time, remove yourself from these two. If you have more time, keep scrolling to see the rest and complete those steps, too.
Intelius: This is one of the biggest data brokers on the web and owns a large chunk of people search sites like Classmates.com, iSearch, ZabaSearch, Peoplelookup, PublicRecords and many others. Previously, you had to fax your driver’s license to remove yourself, but the company has made the process much easier in recent years.
And best of all, if you remove yourself from Intelius, you remove yourself from all of the sites it controls.
- To get started, click on this link and enter your name and email address.
- When you find your records, click Select and Continue.
- On the next page, enter your email address to confirm your identity and fill in the CAPTCHA code. Then, click Continue.
- Open your email and look for a message from the sender Intelius. Click the link inside to continue. Keep in mind the link will expire after 24 hours. If you don’t see the email in your inbox, check your spam folder.
- You will receive a confirmation email with a reference number once the process is complete. It can take up to 72 hours for the opt-out to fully process.
- After 72 hours have passed, look yourself up again on Intelius. If your information is still showing after you got your confirmation, send an email to [email protected] and include the confirmation number you received.
BeenVerified: This website is a major hub for people searches and probably contains a significant amount of information on you. This includes your full name, phone number and street address. To remove your information from BeenVerified completely, follow these steps:
- Tap or click here to visit BeenVerified’s opt-out page and search via first name, last name and state.
- Click the green “Search” button. On the results page, you can filter by city and age if you don’t see yourself.
- When you find your listing, click to select it.
- On the Opt-out request page that opens, enter your email address and check the blue optional checkbox. Fill out the required fields and verify the captcha to prove you’re not automated. Then, click the green “Send Verification Email” box.
- Check your inbox and look for an email from the sender Privacy with the subject [BeenVerified] Opt-Out Verification.
- Open the email and click the link inside. This will bring you to a confirmation page. Removal won’t be immediate, however, so expect it to take several days to weeks before your information vanishes.
InstantCheckmate: InstantCheckmate makes it easier than many other people search websites to remove your info. Fill out the form at the top of the page, select the records you wish to remove and follow the instructions that appear on-screen. The process can take up to 48 hours after opting out.
MyLife: MyLife requires you to make a phone call in order to verify you’re opting out. You may be asked to register for the site in order to make a claim to your data, which is normal. Just make sure not to buy anything that the representative asks you to.
To get started, Call (888) 704-1900 and press 2 to begin the opt-out process.
Once you’ve confirmed your identity, let the agent know you wish to have your profile removed. You should also ask them to remove you from Wink.com since that site is owned by MyLife as well.
Once you’ve filled out the form, expect a follow-up email from Pipl asking you to confirm your identity. This process can potentially take several days.
Spokeo: Like Pipl, Spokeo features a dedicated page for opting out of your records being hosted. You will have to search for your profile on the site and copy the URL into the opt-out form to successfully process it.
Apollo.io: To remove yourself from this data broker site, tap or click this link. From there, enter your email address and your apollo.io profile URL to start the process.
White Pages: As with Spokeo, you’ll need to locate your profile using the search bar at the top of the website and paste the URL into the box on this page. You should also tap or click here to submit a support request to have your information removed. Choose I need to remove or edit a listing from the dropdown.
In your request, ask that your info is also removed from White Pages Premium. Sometimes removed listings only disappear from the basic White Pages unless you specify.
ZoomInfo: ZoomInfo has a specific page for opting out that requires you to fill out a form. Tap or click here to visit the page and provide your email address to begin the opt-out process. You should receive an email from ZoomInfo in your inbox with a code. Click the link in the email, type in the code it included and follow the on-screen instructions to opt-out.
This process, thankfully, only takes a few minutes — and you won’t have to wait several days for your data to vanish.
Bonus: How to stop data brokering sites from grabbing your data
Data brokers can only grab publically available data. You can’t do anything about public records, but you can lock down your privacy settings on the websites you frequently visit.
On Facebook, adjust the following settings to restrict your profile:
- Open Settings and click Privacy.
- Find Who can see your future posts? and click Edit. Choose specific audience settings from here.
- Locate Limit Past Posts to pick and choose who can access your old posts.
- Locate Who can see your friends list? and click Edit. Choose either Friends or Only me.
- Locate Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? Click Edit. Then, clear out the checkbox that lets search engines access your profile.
- Open your profile and tap the three-line icon in the corner.
- Tap the Settings icon.
- Tap on Privacy, followed by Account Privacy.
- Toggle Private Account to set your account to private.
- Tap or click here to open privacy and safety settings.
- Under the section Tweet privacy, check the box next to Protect my Tweets.
- Tap or click Save near the bottom of the page. Enter your Twitter password to confirm the change.
The less info about you floating around the web, the less ammunition data brokers have. If you want to go even further, your next big target is to stop Google from tracking you online. Tap or click here to see how to stop Google from profiling and tracking you.