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How to keep your personal info off public searches.

Ok, so the title of this post is misleading. You just can't totally do it. But you can make it harder for searches to find and share  your info.

Your information is out there. People can find you. If you are reading this you are online and if you are online so is everything from your address to shopping habits and more.

I know this. I'm not generally a private person. Years ago I even skip traced people and that was before it was so easy to just log into Facebook to find out all you need to know about a person. So believe me when I tell you that for me to be shocked at the ease in which your most personal data can be accessed it is saying something. But what really got me was the fact that my child, a minor and also a girl with special needs had her info displayed for all.  It upset me so much that I immediately made a video (which is why I look like my smudged eye, wet head just woke up) so others can check and not just remove themselves but also their children! 

You can see the video I made for info on how to get off this particular site but the truth is this site is one of many, though this is the first site I've found to share the info of minors. 

So the question now is... How do you keep your info private in the information age. The answer? You can't... But  you can make it harder for your info to be found. 

There are lots of sites that collect personal data. Have you ever browsed an online retailer and then found Facebook with an ad of the exact item you were looking at? The internet and pages you visit are constantly collecting data on you.  

You may not be able to stop that but you can lock down your social media pages and request to be removed from search sites... but you will have to make a request with each site individually.  Once you do that what can you do going forward to keep the next search site from sharing your info?

Keep your private life private. 

The majority of these sites can easily get your info from the social media pages you frequent daily. Remove as much data from your profile as you can. Sure you are proud of your Alma Mater and you love being president of your kids PTA but if you don't want the world to know where you went to school or your kids are enrolled details like this are best left off your pages.

To make it even harder make your profile and what you do share private.

Here is how to do that for all the main social media pages:

If you are super into social media and don't want to put everything totally under wraps for whatever reason (business networking, you are a public figure, etc) you can still semi protect  your accounts by making them not be accessible to search engines outside of that site.  Doing this on Facebook will allow you to keep your Facebook posts off search engines for more privacy.

Tell others to respect your privacy.

Yes, your parents want to add connections to you on Facebook and let everyone know you're kin. Maybe grandma is trying to trace back their family tree (which by the way and other ancestry sites are there for collecting info and sharing it so your info is there too!). They basically are just helping these searches find more connections and ways to find you. Let them know how much info they are sharing and ask they leave you out of it. 

Delete old accounts.

I know it's hard to say goodbye... but my space was sooo 2006! So u unless you are some relatively unknown band that hasn't caught up with the times... delete that old account. Same goes for the other old accounts that you probably don't even remember you had (like friendster, Livejournal, Classmates., you get the idea). While some of these may still have users... if you are not one of them delete that account. 

People search sites snag their info from publicly available profiles and they don't mind going toless popular sites to fill in the timeline gaps (which may be why they found addresses of places I forgot I lived!)  So to keep that info out of the hands of searches and those who really have no good reason to have it... just remove it. Sure they can still find it somewhere but they will have to work a hell of a lot harder to.

Now, remember each site has it's own process for deleting an account so be sure to follow the rules and make sure it's gone for good. Accountkiller is a great resource since it offers "super simple instructions to delete just about any online account or profile.

Go to the Source.

While this is generally the very first step since often wanting to remove yourself from a search is a result of an intrusive search being shared and your immediate shock and feelings of violation it is also the most tedious but most effective since you MUST go to each search site to request removal to actually be removed. There is no other full proof way to do it yourself. This also can take hours to weeks so learn what the promised time frame for removal is before freaking out the next day when you check back and see your info still posted.  Also realize that if you have variations of your info (maiden name, married name, nick name, Jr, II, etc) you most likely will need to make an individual request for each one.  And know that any changes could make your info repopulate. Say you get married and now use a maiden name... your new name may appear with all  your info. Again, keeping your public info to a minimum will help this or at least limit the accuracy and amount of info on  you. 

Removing is often as easy as clicking a few buttons but sometimes there are more steps. Know and understand them and follow them exact to insure you are properly removed.  Some may ask for even more personal info, copies of ID or even a credit card. Be smart and cautious when sharing anything 

Yes, I realize these searches needed zero consent from you to add you and they are asking for everything except a blood sample to remove you. It's not fair, it stinks but do what you have to and what you feel comfortable with. 

Hire Help.

If this all sounds like too much work and you still want it done you can pay someone to do it for you.  A service like DeleteMe puts in requests to remove your information with the more popular searches but it's not full proof. The good side is it  keeps watch on those sites to make sure nothing appears. The bad side is it may not catch newer searches and it costs over $100 to use.

But it's still not over... 

Even if after doing everything I said above you dropped off the grid and never went online again... your info could still appear in searches. Companies buy and sell your info all the time so these are just ways to make gaining access to your info harder but it's not impossible. Between public records and the ease of which you can be tracked and traced you can be found.

The bigger issue here to me is how they are sharing our children's info.  So do the above steps for you and also for your children. We are currently looking into any legalities for the sharing of minor and endangered youths information publicly and will update if we find more info. 

For now be online but be aware and be safe. 

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