People search websites are convenient for finding nearly anyone’s personal information—but not so much if you don’t want your own information, including addresses, family members, and known associates, available for all to see. Many of these services are free or cost very little, and they provide a really detailed picture of an individual without knowledge or consent.
Here’s how to protect yourself from Family Tree Now, Whitepages, Spokeo, and other popular people search engines just like it.
Family Tree Now
Removing your information from Family Tree Now is, fortunately, pretty simple, provided they actually honor requests to be removed fully from their database:
- Head to the opt-out page and click the “Begin Opt Out Procedure” button after proving you’re not a robot.
- Search for yourself using your name and birthdate, and select your record listing from the results.
- Verify that it’s actually you and not someone with the same name, then click the big red “Opt Out” button at the top of the page.
It will take 48 hours for your information to be removed, but that’s all there is to it. If you have multiple listings, repeat the process for each record.
Whitepages is one of the most popular people search engines, and it also provides information for other aggregate search engines. As a result, the opt-out process for Whitepages is a little more complicated:
- Head to the site and search for yourself. Copy and note the URL for all of your listings. They should look something like “http://www.whitepages.com/name/John-Doe/Seattle-WA/6u3wkef”.
- Go to the Whitepages opt-out page.
- Paste in the URL of your listing. Then click “Opt-out.”
- Verify the record you want removed and click the “Remove me” button. On the next screen, choose the reason for removal from the drop-down menu.
- Next, you’ll have to enter your phone number to receive via an automated confirmation call. Click “Call now to Verify,” which will take you to a page with a confirmation code.
- Wait for the verification robocall, then follow the prompts. Keep in mind that some call blockers may prevent the call from getting through or alert you to possible spam. You’ll need the confirmation code to complete your removal request.
The process above will remove you from all free searches, but Whitepages Premium subscribers will still be able to search you. To remove your data from Premium searches, you have put in a support ticket:
- In your search results, find the Premium record for the report you want to remove—this is the listing with the blue “View Full Report” button next to it.
- Right-click (or CTRL + click) that button, and select “Copy link address.”
- Head to the Whitepages support request page.
- Select “I need to edit or remove a listing” from the dropdown menu and fill out the form. You’ll need to provide your first name, middle initial, last name, city, state, and listing URL.
The process will take around 72 hours. Like the other search engines on this list, removing your information from Whitepages doesn’t remove it from public records.
Spokeo’s people search engine aggregates publicly available information from third party sources, so removing your listing there doesn’t necessarily remove your listing anywhere else. That said, it’s still worth opting out of Spokeo so your information doesn’t linger. Here’s how to do it:
- Search for yourself using Spokeo and copy the URL for your listing.
- Head to the Spokeo opt-out page, then paste the URL in the first text box.
- Enter an email address in the other second text box. This is required so they can send a confirmation link. (Same rules as above apply—any address that can get a confirmation email works here.)
- Click “Remove this listing.”
Once you confirm the removal via the email you provided, you’re all set.
PeekYou is designed for people looking to reconnect with old classmates or former colleagues, but the service can still be pretty creepy in the wrong hands. Here’s how to opt out of PeekYou’s searches:
- Search for yourself using PeekYou. Record the unique ID number at the end of your listing’s URL. You don’t need the entire URL, just that number.
- Head to the PeekYou opt-out form page and enter your information, including the unique ID number.
- Check the two disclosure boxes, then click “Submit.”
You’ll get a verification email, but your information should now be fully removed. However, keep in mind that PeekYou might have multiple listings for you in their database. You’ll have to repeat the process above for each listing.
Instant Checkmate is a public records search and background check service that collects local, state, and federal data on individuals. The service is widely used, but opting out is a snap:
- Head to the Instant Checkmate opt-out page.
- Search for your report using your name and location.
- Select the report and enter your email address. You’ll have to confirm your request via email, and removal could take up to 48 hours.
Again, you may have multiple listings, and each one will require a separate form. Be sure to check. You can also asked to be removed via snail mail if you prefer.
Other popular people search engines, like Pipl and Intelius, have similar opt-out options. You’ll have to contact the company and go through a removal request to have some or all of your information deleted from these search engines.
Of course, the only way to keep your information off these sites entirely is to remove the sources, like social network profiles, court documents, articles, and anything else that mentions your name. Otherwise, your data will be permanently searchable. This may not be realistic, so make a dent by deleting your records from public search engines first.
This story was originally published in January 2017 and updated on 12/12/19 with more thorough and current information.