What Is a People Search by Name?
A people search by name involves using an individual's first and last name to find their publicly available information. This search is anonymous and completely legal per the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the specific state's public records law. Many government agencies also let interested members of the public perform searches by name to access public records. However, the scope of such searches may be restricted for specific purposes, and the searcher must pay fees to access each record.
Independent people search engines obtain information from several sources, including public records and aggregate data. These services compile databases of people's name-based information and can supplement the information obtained from public sources and data brokers. While many people search sites let interested persons perform a free people search by name, the information provided is limited. For more comprehensive information, the searcher must typically pay a fee.
People search engines are typically accessed through third-party sources. Third-party people search websites are straightforward to use, and results are not geographically limited. However, third-party people search sites are not government-sponsored. Therefore, agencies cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.
What Can You Find With a People Search by Name?
The information obtained from a people search by name depends on the data stored by the search engine. Independent search engines vary in the information presented. Some are dedicated to finding a person's phone number with a name search; others offer expansive information that can include biodata, phone numbers, and other available records. Parties who perform a people search by name can expect to see two classes of information about an individual: biodata and record-specific data.
Biodata, short for biographical data, refers to an individual's personal information, which makes them unique from other persons. Common available biodata on people search by name sites include:
- Full name, age, and gender of the subject
- Physical descriptors (including height, weight, skin color, eye and hair color, body markings, etc.)
- Demographic information (nationality, race, ethnicity, and marital status)
- Contact information (location, phone number, and email address)
The availability of the aforementioned details depends on the name site or government record custodian. Government record custodians may restrict certain data for privacy or security reasons. Independent search engines that obtain their information independently are not always subject to the same restrictions.
Record-specific data refers to documents that are separated by agency and type of record. Most states have agencies and public officials who act as record custodians for specific types of records. These custodians make documents available for public inspections. A searcher would need to visit several record custodians for the sought-after information — this involves following different request processes and paying different fees. However, independent search engines tend to compile all of the aforementioned information into a single record and make it available to interested persons. This option is faster as the search is online, and parties can obtain comprehensive information for a single fee. Public record searches must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which prohibits the usage of the information obtained from public records search engines from being used for official purposes.
How To Do a People Search by Name
Persons who wish to perform a people search by name must know the full name of the person of interest. With advancements in record management technology, an individual may perform a people search by name from the repose of their home. The searcher need only visit the third-party repository that offers similar search services. There, the searcher must enter the person of interest's name and follow the onscreen prompts.
How To Do a Free People Search by Name
Yes, interested persons may perform a free people search by name using online resources. Parties can obtain information such as name, addresses, and phone numbers from free people search by name.It should be noted that the information provided via free searches is often limited as these repositories are operated by for-profit companies.
Each free people search by name site offers varying data. For example, one search engine may only provide the subject's last known address. In that case, inquiring parties can search several sites to see what is offered until the information is satisfactory. While this method may be time-consuming, it is possible to put together a report free of charge.
Are People Searches by Name Legal?
Yes, people searches by name are legal. Persons who perform a people search on third-party sites can only use the information obtained to satisfy personal curiosity. These entities may incur civil liabilities and administrative sanctions from agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), and the state's Fair Housing Commission if they do not comply with the FCRA.
How Do People Search by Name Sites Get Your Information?
A people search by name site obtains information from a variety of sources. Many of these sites obtain information from publicly available records in the custody of government agencies. Another source of people's information is data brokers, who collect information from software companies and sell it to name sites. Information available on people search sites is often also gathered from self-reported records. Websites that ask users for their personal details to gain access to privileges sell that data to people search sites. In turn, the people search sites make the data available to the public with a small fee and simple one-time search.
How To Remove Your Name From People Search Websites
Persons who wish to remove their names and information from people search websites must contact the website directly. Following legislation in many states — most notably the California Consumer Privacy Act — sites are now required to provide an opt-out or "do not sell my data" option on their web pages. This option lets individuals initiate record removal from the name site and disallow internet companies and data brokers from selling or sharing a person's information.
Given the multitude of name sites out there — especially as many sites even have subsidiaries — it is difficult to fully remove one's name and personal data from all people search sites. In such cases, concerned persons may hire a data removal service for this purpose.