A Comprehensive Guide by OneRep
Have you ever Googled yourself? If so, you may have been surprised to find your personal details shared across the web.
Google knows too much about you. Not only does it store every piece of user data it gets, but also the search engine relies heavily on data brokers AKA people-search sites that expose your info online. As a world leader in search, Google is all about information. And people-search services collect and publish (without your permission) sensitive information about you. Web pages with your personal details are pulled up by Google as search results for your name – readily available for anyone who types it into the search bar and hits ‘enter’.
In addition to being a threat to your safety and making you an open target to cybercrime, those results can be inaccurate and reputation damaging. Maddening, isn’t it? We have some suggestions that can help.
What Are Data Brokers? How Do They Hunt My Data?
Your Personal Information Is Everywhere
People-search sites, or data brokers, collect your personal data from a wide range of public and private sources. Their goal is to share it for a profit. They sell your data to organizations that care to learn about you—like your potential employer or your bank — or they list it on sites open to the public.
To make your data more attractive for Google and human searchers, they accumulate as many public records as they can. These records can include where you live and work, but also court records, marriage licenses, unsealed lawsuits or legal actions, voter registrations, government spending reports, and more.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Data brokers also dig for information from commercial sources like retailers, marketing lists, phone directories, crowd-sourced information, and web services and apps. They collect information on your purchases as well as other details about your behaviors and habits as a consumer. In addition, they enrich their databases with information that is pulled from social media accounts, blogs, news articles, and publications.
The amount of data being collected is astounding. To understand the scale of this data gathering, pipl.com, the supplier of data for numerous people-search sites, collects its information from at least 300 data sources including Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Amazon, Wikipedia, Tripadvisor and many others. Click here to see the full list.
Data Brokers Can Be A Risk To Your Reputation
Data brokers are constantly looking for new, updated information about people. Once they find new information, they merge it with their existing profiles. It’s not always a seamless or error-free process.
Mikalai Shershan, OneRep’s CTO, explains that “Merging databases and matching scattered information from numerous sources into one profile is a challenging technical task. Errors happen from time to time. This is how you find irrelevant information attributed to you—e.g. someone else’s criminal record—in a so-called profile of yours on Spokeo or a bad ‘reputation score’ on Mylife.”
Check if people search sites expose your info
OneRep scans 103 data broker sites for your profiles
and removes your private information. Automatically.
My Data Is Exposed By Data Brokers And Google. Should I Worry?
Anyone who has a WiFi connection and a computer or phone can find sensitive personal data about you.With a few clicks, they can find your name, age, family members, marital and parenting status, current and past contact details, income level, education level, property ownership, employment details, links to social media profiles, and more.
In the wrong hands, this information can be used to cause harm. Stalkers and abusers can easily find you via people-search sites. For some, exposed data is a significant source of spam, robocalls, and scam emails. For others, publicly-shared personal data has cost them job opportunities or relationships.
Another serious threat that can hit a random person is swatting. In November 2019, Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram and a longtime Facebook employee, became a target of an anonymous online attacker who called in a fake hostage situation at his San Francisco home. A very cruel prank that didn’t turn deadly by mere chance. Just imagine what else people can do if they have access to your home address online”.
And beware: we are all super susceptible to identity theft. The so-called “social engineers” trick you into giving out sensitive information, and then use it to steal your identity to gain a financial advantage, or obtain credit and other benefits in your name.
Things can go as far as medical identity theft. For example, a thief could get medical care like expensive surgery or prescriptions under your name. Just imagine finding out that you’ve paid for someone’s Brazilian butt-lift and an ensuing course of Prozac.
Unfortunately, it is totally lawful to post information gathered from publicly available sources. By doing so, data brokers are not in violation of the law.
To prevent this, you can protect yourself by removing your information from these sites and Google. The law requires all data brokers to comply and remove your information upon request.
Remove your sensitive info from the web
OneRep’s algorithm scans 103 data brokers and removes your records from all people search sites that publish them
How To Remove Personal Information From Google
To understand how to remove your information from Google, one should understand how this information gets there in the first place.
Google And Data Brokers Are Partners In Your Privacy Violations
Google rewards people-search sites for fresh new content. This relationship accelerates the exposure of private information. Here are the hidden mechanics behind this process:
1. People like to look up other people
Google gets hundreds of millions of search requests for people’s names (phones, addresses, etc.) each month. This demand drives the multi-billion dollar people-search industry, which depends on free traffic from Google to survive.
2. The same source of information causes competition
All people-search sites pull personal information from the same source—public records. Google judges the quality of a website’s content by how fresh and unique this content is.
3. Competition drives exposure
To compete with each other for Google’s rankings, people-search sites have to:
- Release more and more information from public records for free (instead of keeping it behind the paywall).
- Enrich people’s profiles with information from consumer databases (data collected during online browsing and online and offline transactions).
To Remove Yourself From Google, Remove Yourself From Data Brokers
If you’re looking to remove yourself from Google searches, you should start with deleting your profiles on people-search sites. Here are some things to remember:
1. Your data is on numerous sites
“According to OneRep statistics, an average person is found on 46 data broker sites. Some sites may share several profiles of yours because of name variations that generate new listings. It is essential to remove all profiles if you want to remove unwanted search results from Google and minimize your online presence” says Mikalai Shershan.
2. Removing yourself from major data brokers is not enough
Removing listings from major data brokers is helpful, but doesn’t go far enough. Once your profiles on Whitepages or MyLife are gone, Google will pull up profiles from other, lesser-known sites into its search engine.
3. Each data broker has it own opt-out procedure
Though the law obliges data brokers to remove your information at your request, they are not in a hurry to do this. Every site offers a unique way to remove your data that’s often hard to find and navigate. Be prepared to share even more of your private data (your current phone number or email address), fill out online forms, send a slew of emails and snail mail, make phone calls, and even fax your opt-out requests.
How To Remove Yourself From Data Brokers
There are two ways: manual and automated.
Manual Way - Detailed Checklist
For the reasons mentioned above, this method is time-consuming and requires commitment on your part. Here’s our checklist to help you through.
1. Create a temporary email account
Why? Many data brokers require signing up to claim your profile in order to remove it.
We strongly recommend using temporary disposable email services like guerrillamail.com, mytemp.email, tempmailaddress.com, and others. You can also create a temporary email address on any email domains of your choice. The temporary email address will keep your regular email safe and protect your real inbox from spam.
2. Find out which data brokers share your personal information
How can you discover where your information is exposed? There are two ways:
- Google yourself. Type your name + city or your name + city and state. Search and see which data brokers have shared your data.
- Have OneRep check your name on data broker sites. The tool will take a quick scan of over 100 websites and display the results on an easy-to-read dashboard.
3. Request data brokers to delete your listings.
Once you’ve got your search results, you can start removing info from data broker sites like Whitepages, MyLife, Spokeo, Truthfinder, and BeenVerified. Don’t stop until all of your unauthorized listings are deleted. To help you out, we’ve devised detailed opt-out instructions on how to get your personal info off of 102 data broker sites.
If you don’t have the time to visit a growing number of people-search sites to delete your data manually, use the OneRep removal tool. It will do all the work for you.
How Does OneRep Removal Work?
Our tool follows these three steps.
Step 1: Scan the web for your name
OneRep scans over 100 data broker sites to find your “profiles” – pages with your information that were created without your permission.
Step 2: Delete all the discovered listings
OneRep removes your information from all of the data brokers that display it: the tool automatically sends opt-out requests on your behalf. It also keeps you informed about the removal progress.
Step 3: Monitor the web for your data reappearance
OneRep monitors the web and keeps removing your information: the tool runs regular scans of the 100+ websites that display your personal information to monitor your data. If a people-search site relists your profile, OneRep will delete it again.
Other Things To Keep In Mind About Removing Your Info From Google
1. Removing your profile from top people-search sites does not equal immediate removal of your name from Google.
It takes up to several days for Google to update its search results and exclude your deleted listings. Remember to come back and check again. Also don’t forget to clear your Google Chrome cache to see the up-to-date Google search. If a data broker has deleted your information but the link to a non-existing page is still visible in Google, you may have to ask Google to help you delete outdated content from its search.
2. Your results may reappear in Google even after you’ve removed your profiles from all data brokers.
Sadly, it’s not enough to remove listings from data broker sites once. More often than not, those listings reappear. When this happens, finding their way back to Google search results is just a matter of time. Additionally, new people-search sites spring up and they publish your info too.
It’s a good idea to make it part of your routine to Google your name from time to time to check if any profiles have popped back up or new ones appeared. Or, if you’re a OneRep member, the tool will automatically monitor all data broker websites to make sure your unwanted information never reappears in a Google search.
Now Is The Time To Regain Control
No matter how you do it, manually or automatically, there’s no time like now to say goodbye to seeing your personal information sprawled across the internet.
Wish to explore this topic further? We suggest you check out our article about removing public records. Also, take a few minutes to learn how to protect your privacy on social media and how to protect yourself from the most common types of cyber crime: synthetic identity theft, account takeover, criminal identity theft, senior citizens fraud, child identity theft, ssn fraud, tax identity theft, bank fraud, and other crimes exploiting personally identifiable information.