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When someone Googles your name, there’s a whole host of information about you they might find. Sometimes this is good, like finding links to your personal website or Twitter account. But sometimes there is information that you don’t want to share online, like your home address or phone number.
Directory listing websites can hold a lot of your personal information. But fortunately there is a way to get this information taken down. In this article, we’ll show you have to take control of your personal data and get your details deleted from these websites.
What Types of Sites Collect Your Personal Data?
You might be shocked by how many websites list information about you. Sites like online directories, address listing sites, and background check websites are common. You’ll find sites like Whitepages.com, which lists personal information on many people in the U.S. (In the U.K., 192.com does the same thing.)
Often these sites have some information available publicly. Then they charge people to access more information such as full addresses.
The idea is that these sites can offer useful information for potential employers, skip tracers, or journalists. But this data can very easily be misused. And you never know who is looking at your personal information.
What Information About You Is Available Online?
These sites can gather a lot of information about you, including:
- Your name
- Your current home address
- Other addresses where you have previously lived
- Your email address
- Your mobile and home phone numbers
- Date of birth
- Names of your relatives
- Details of any criminal convictions
- Details of arrests that did not lead to a conviction
- Names of your friends, business partners, or housemates
- Whether you are married or divorced and the name of your spouse
- Your education
- Your employer
- Assets, such as whether you own a house
Some sites may even have access to much more sensitive personal data such as your social security number.
What’s Wrong With Personal Info Being Available?
When you see it listed out like that, it’s pretty scary how much information about you can be obtained. Especially as all it takes to find is a quick Google search. If you’re concerned about privacy, you should get this information taken down. This is particularly important if you want to avoid being stalked or harassed.
But there’s another reason to be concerned about the availability of this data too. Having this information easily available makes you vulnerable to identify theft, spear phishing, SIM swaps, and other cyber attacks. The more people who can access your personal details, the easier it is for someone to pretend to be you or to target you in an attack.
Simply: anyone can steal your identity.
Where Do These Websites Get Their Data?
Although these sites may be annoying and intrusive, they are not illegal. Even though you didn’t give you information to the sites personally, they merely collate information which is already publicly available.
Often these sites source data from public government databases. These include the electoral roll, census records, criminal conviction databases, marriage certificate records, land use records, and more.
While you have to accept that some information about you will be publicly available, it’s quite a different story to have all this data available on one website. It’s also concerning that this information is accessible through a simple Google search.
Another source of information that many sites use is your social media profiles. If you have publicly accessible personal information available on your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter account, it will likely end up on a directory site. You might want to delete information from social media sites. Also you can consider whether you share too much information online.
How to Remove Your Information From Public Sites
It used to be that listings websites would make it very difficult for you to remove your data. Often they would request annoying things like printing and posting a paper form, or even requiring you to send a fax.
But now, thanks in part to new EU data control laws, the sites must give you a reasonable way to remove your details. Even if you live outside the EU, if the site operates within Europe then it must allow you to remove your information.
Unfortunately there is no way to opt out of all these sites at once. You will have to submit a request for your data to be removed from each site individually. But it shouldn’t take too long. Usually you just need to fill out an online form and the site will take down your details within a few days.
A word of warning though: sometimes sites will ask for more of your details in the removal form. You should only ever give the details that the site already has. For example, maybe a site lists your name and address but not your phone number. When you fill out the removal form you should only put in your name and address.
If the site asks for a phone number or email address, use a fake one. Don’t give any more information to these sites than they already have.
Where to Go to Remove Your Information
Here is a list of some of the most common data collection websites with links to their respective opt out pages:
- USA-People-Search [No Longer Available]
You can find a longer list of personal data websites with instructions on how to remove your details from each at wiki.onerep.com.
The best way to check which sites you need to remove your data from is by running a search on yourself. Enter your name into Google and see what comes up. If you have a common name, add your state or zip code to the search query to filter out irrelevant results.
Remove Your Personal Data and Stay Safe
Directory sites, background check sites, and address listing sites are all common. They can list information about you without your permission.
But you can get your data taken down. Using the links in this article you can have private, or even false, data removed from the web. It will help protect you against cyber attacks.
While you’re at it, you might want to clear your data from Google to further improve your online privacy and delete browser extensions that are known to steal personal data. Also learn how Google’s reCAPTCHAs can capture your private information.
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Explore more about: Online Privacy.