October 6, 2014
So I’m reading some political news on one of my favorite sites and I see the following ad: “Find anyone in Florida using public records“. Normally I wouldn’t even notice the ad or my eyes would automatically scan past it, but I accidentally tapped on the ad as I was trying to scroll down on my iPad.
I ended up at a public records search form that highlighted all the kinds of government information that is publicly available to anyone that requests it. This made me curious, so I decided to do a search on myself. The basic results were pretty weak and just showed my age and some people that were related to me. They got my mom, dad and brother in the results and they also got my age right. I guess that was a little creepy. The results also showed my previous address from a place I lived at 2 addresses ago but it did not show my last address.
This was pretty much all the information I was able to get for free. To get anything else I had to pay. At this point, I decided to see just how much data they had on me. The service had 2 payment options and I opted for the more expensive one as I really wanted to see what was out there on me.
Wow! Let’s just say I was kinda shocked at how much information they had on me. It really was very creepy to find out how much someone can find out about you in a quick online search. I was rather upset because there was a big mistake in the results too. Apparently there is someone else living in Florida that has the same name as me and that was convicted of a felony. Unfortunately, the service I used ended up attributing that felony to me. I was kinda pissed as this point so I decided to look through the site’s support information to send them some colorful feedback.
They had an opt out form which I promptly filled out and which I hope will remove me from a good part of the Internet. Sadly, it looks like you have to actually find the local public records office that has the mistake if you want the problem corrected permanently. This was not something I wanted to do so I just went with the opt out option.
I did some looking around and there are several leading public records search providers. Every single one of them has an opt out form. If you want to remove yourself from these databases I strongly suggest you go fill them out. Just search for “public records” and you will find the most popular ones pretty quickly.
The Internet has all sorts of information about us available to anyone that is looking for it. This is especially true now with social networks getting into the big data game. Right now most of these databases are only able to get government records (property, court, criminal, marriage, divorce, etc.). Imagine if they are able to combine that with data at social networks like who your friends are, your marital status, your gender and (gasp!) your sexual orientation. Someone could quickly get a pretty detailed snapshot of your life with a simple search.
Long story short, you might want to take the time to do a public records search on yourself and pay attention to your online privacy. You are almost definitely in the cloud.