Posted on February 13, 2017 by
Have you ever Googled yourself and found personal details shockingly easy to uncover? A slew of address lookup sites make personal and sensitive information readily available and at the fingertips of anyone who wishes to find someone’s address. Unnerving as it may be to find a listing with your current home address, past home addresses, former names (usually maiden names), relatives and acquaintances, these address lookup companies exist and thrive – and even charge money to dispense of your seemingly confidential whereabouts and history.
While most of us find the easy availability of information on certain websites irritating and alarming, for some the accessibility of this information may prove outright dangerous and potentially life threatening. For example, some lawyers, investigators and doctors live with the possibility of an angry or unhinged client, defendant or patient looking to threaten or do them harm. Address lookup sites provide the first step for a vexed subject to take ill-advised actions.
Given the gravity of such a situation, how is one able to protect him or herself from an address lookup site that exposes this sensitive information? We recommend that professionals adhere to three important practices to keep private information private:
By way of example, we work with a client for whom it is imperative that a home address is not available, yet who found the home address plastered across the internet and various address lookup sites by an unhappy former associate. Here is how we keep our client’s home address safe:
On a regular basis, we vigilantly conduct extensive Google searches on the client’s name, address, business and other pertinent details. We also occasionally find sites with this information that don’t come up in search results during our regular search. We keep track of the dates of each search, search terms and search results in an extensive tracking spreadsheet.
When we find a site with the client’s home address, either through our regular searches or a random site we happen upon, we diligently look for ways to remedy that listing. Ideally, we figure out how to opt out of a listing automatically. We appreciate these address lookup sites that allow us to make our own changes. One site, FamilyTreeNow.com, let’s you opt out of their address lookout on our own! However, we typically need to work a bit harder and reach out via phone or email to the site owner and request that a listing is either totally removed or changed to an office address. Indicating that an address is incorrect – rather than telling them it is sensitive – tends to be the best approach to making a change. We offer a business address as the correct address. Once the request for change has been made, we continue our diligence by rechecking the site to ensure the changes are indeed made. And, we continue to record all of this activity in our tracking spreadsheet.
After a few persistent outreach efforts, if changes are not made, we turn our attention to the domain registry. Through the domain registry, we can typically find contact information. We contact the domain owner with the same request we used previously – and, of course, track it in our spreadsheet. Finally, if all outreach efforts fail to impact change, we take our persistence to the next level and indicate that our lawyers will be in touch.
The key to this entire process is patience while practicing your vigilance, diligence and persistence. Also key is a “rinse and repeat” mentality. Meaning, this isn’t a time-time task, rather an ongoing endeavor with a regular cadence. It takes time, effort and detailed documentation. But, personal safety necessitates this work.
Are you alarmed by the sensitive information so readily available on address lookup sites? Have you taken any action to have your address changed or removed on these sites? We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on staying safe and keeping private information private. Stay safe!