Data brokers are companies that collect information on consumers and then sell that information to other companies. And the data broker ecosystem is vast.
It’s a galaxy of companies that exist in this space. Most of the data brokers ordinary people don’t know who they are or that they exist. The ones that peek their heads out of the shadows the most are data brokers that we call People Search Sites.
And the reason people are more familiar with those types of data brokers is because if they Google their own name, or the names of their friends or family members or acquaintances, those data brokers will post up information about people on the Web for anyone in the world to see.
How People Search Sites Operate
People search sites are websites that allow users to search for people by name, email address, phone number, or other personal information. These sites are often used to find contact information for people who are not easily accessible through traditional search engines like Google and Bing.
People search sites can pose a serious threat to privacy. People search sites collect and sell personal information without the consent of the people involved. This information is then made available to anyone who is willing to pay for it. This can include businesses, employers, landlords, and even stalkers.
People search sites have been the subject of numerous lawsuits alleging that they violate privacy laws. In some cases, these lawsuits have resulted in the people search site being shut down. In other cases, the people search site has been ordered to stop collecting and selling personal information.
People Search Site Lawsuits
On March 1, 2011, the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against PeekYou for its failure to remove people’s personal information from their search engine when requested to do so. The Attorney General’s office found that PeekYou failed to remove data from their site in response to over 100 requests from individuals and businesses to remove their information. PeekYou agreed to pay$ 75,000 in civil penalties and costs as part of a settlement with the state. PeekYou is not alone in failing to remove people’s personal information from their site. In fact, it is a common problem with many ”people search” sites.
The FTC sued Spokeo and three other companies, alleging they used people search sites to collect personal information and then sold that information to employers and others. In the case of Spokeo, the FTC alleged that the company’s search engine was designed in such a way that it encouraged users to enter personal information about themselves into profiles that were then posted on the site. For example, Spokeo’s search engine would lead users to believe that the site was a free online phone book. However, according to the FTC, many of the users’ profile information ended up being posted on Spokeo’s site without their knowledge or consent.