Online Data Vendors: How Consumers Can Opt Out of Directory Assistance and Non-public Information

There are many websites that sell or provide for free, personal information about individuals. This information is gathered from many sources including white pages listings (directory assistance), publicly-available sources and public records.

Directory Listings: To prevent the cross-referencing of your address with your phone number, you can choose to not have your information available in the phone book or through directory assistance. If your number is “unlisted,” your name, address and phone number will not be printed in the phone book, but the information is available through both directory assistance and reverse directory assistance. If your number is “unpublished,” your information will not be printed in the phone book and is not available through directory assistance or reverse directory assistance. Or you can list your name and phone number, but not your address. Telephone companies usually charge a monthly fee to be unlisted or unpublished.

Public Records: Please note that public records are often that–public. Web sites that provided personal information gathered from various sources are not required to offer a way to have that information removed or suppressed, though many will as a courtesy. The table below notes many of the more common online providers of public and non-public information that do offer an opt out mechanism. The opt out notes below usually only apply to non-public information. Not all web sites that sell personal information allow individuals to have their information removed or suppressed. Check the privacy policy of the site to see if they offer an opt-out mechanism. If one is provided, ask the online data broker for clarification on whether opting out also applies to public records information they may maintain.

Keep in mind that public records can contain errors, e.g. your name was confused with someone else or the current status of your case is not included. An Internet data broker will not correct such errors. They will instruct you to correct errors with the court or other source of the record.

Last, opting out may prove to be a fruitless venture since often online vendors will simply repopulate the data when they obtain their next download of information from the source. According to People Data, their information is refreshed every three to four months. Your only option would be to check back and go through the opt-out process again if you find your information has been reposted. (more…)