With over 300 million searches a day for personal names and details, the digital age has seen a surge in ‘people search’ websites, making privacy a significant concern. These people-search sites can effortlessly access your personal information, and it might appear on Google even if you did not provide consent. So, how does your private information end up on these platforms?
- Public records: Data brokers gather data from census data, court records, property deeds, licenses, and other publicly available documents.
- Online activity: Your online footprints, including site visits, purchases, ad interactions, and social media behavior, provide valuable data. Using tools like cookies and web beacons, brokers track this information.
- Offline activity: Physical store purchases, subscriptions, surveys, and events are also sources for data collection. Data brokers employ various techniques to link data from these multiple sources, creating extensive profiles using personal identifiers such as names, email addresses, or phone numbers.
How Data Brokers Utilize Collected Information
Data brokers use the collected information in several ways:
- Assisting in people search and background checks.
- Enhancing marketing and advertising efforts.
- Mitigating risks and preventing fraud. While some data brokers provide opt-out options, there’s little regulation to prevent them from re-acquiring and reselling your information later.
Protecting Your Privacy
So, can you protect your online information? Yes, but it demands proactive effort:
- Manual Removal: Although you can request your information’s removal from people-search sites, it’s a continuous process due to the lack of regulation.
- Removal Services: For those concerned about their online security and privacy, investing in removal services might be worthwhile. While they don’t guarantee complete data removal, these services monitor and automate the deletion process, shielding you from potential threats. Find out more about online privacy and safe internet use here.
Google’s Solution: “Results About You”
Overview of Google’s Feature
Google, recognizing the growing concern over digital privacy, launched “Results About You” in August. This tool proactively notifies users when their personal data appears in a Google search. This not only helps in tracing digital breadcrumbs but also acts as a defense against online threats like doxxing.
Setting Up “Results About You”
Ready to regulate your online persona through Google? Here’s a straightforward guide:
- Ensure you have a Google account and log in.
- Navigate to the “Results About You” activity page.
- Follow the provided instructions, including listing down contact details for which you want alerts.
- Choose your preferred notification method: email or push notifications.
Erasing Personal Data from Google Search
It’s vital to remember that Google cannot delete content from websites it doesn’t own. However, they can assist in removing specific personal details from their search pages. Here’s how:
- Visit the “Results About You” activity page.
- Review the results, and select any that you want removed.
- Submit your removal request. Google will then evaluate based on their guidelines.
For broader queries, Google’s Help Center offers a content removal form to guide users through the process.
Maintaining Digital Vigilance
Consistently check what information about you is available online. Periodic Google searches of your name and associated details can reveal if new information has been made public, allowing you to take action immediately.
Limit Social Media Exposure
Always be cautious when sharing personal details on social media platforms. Ensure your privacy settings are appropriately configured and be wary of friends or follow requests from unfamiliar profiles.
Use Encrypted Services
For communications, consider using encrypted messaging services and email providers that prioritize user privacy. Encryption ensures that only the intended recipient can read your messages, adding another layer of security.
While tools and services can assist in managing your online visibility, it’s essential to exercise caution regarding the personal details you share online. In this digital era, prevention remains the best form of protection. Being proactive in monitoring and controlling the dissemination of your personal details can greatly reduce the risk of unwarranted exposure and potential threats.