Help! My PPP Loan Caused My Personal Info To Appear Online

Did you borrow a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, for your business? If the answer is yes, some of the information you provided for your loan is now discoverable in public databases, thanks to the US SBA (Small Business Administration).

Initially, the government planned to only release the information about those who took a PPP loan for $150,000 or more, and planned to only provide dollar ranges for those businesses, not specific dollar amounts of PPP loans.

This all changed in early December 2020. This was done by court order following lawsuits brought by media organizations seeking the data. As a result, the SBA was forced to release full, detailed information about all borrowers who received loans from the $659 billion coffers of the  Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program. For many smaller borrowers, this poses a huge problem.

What PPP Loan Data Is Now Public?

The information released by the Small Business administration includes, but is not limited to:

  • Name of the borrower and name of the business
  • The precise amount of money borrowed with the PPP loan
  • Address of the business (or home address if a work from home scenario)
  • Relevant industry codes
  • General information about the lender

Additional fields included are NAICS codes, business type, race and ethnicity, gender, veteran status, nonprofit status, jobs reported, and the date the loan was approved.

This was released for all of the over five million loans provided through the Paycheck Protection Program.

If you’re concerned about the dozens of other sites that may have your personal information publicly available outside of PPP loan data, we recommend running a free scan with Removaly, which you can do here.

Main Locations Where PPP Loan Data Is Disseminated

The four main locations online where we have discovered PPP loan data and personal information being made public are ProPublica, Federal Pay, the SBA’s official website, and Hello Skip. All four of these sources provide searchable databases of this information for different reasons.

  • ProPublica: ProPublica is all about accountability. In fact, their About page states: To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing. They were the first to display this information in a public, searchable form.
  • Federal Pay: This website is extremely well known for providing transparent (yet invasive) data regarding the salaries of federal officials and those employed by the federal government, from Presidents all the way to janitors.
  • Small Business Administration: The SBA is the source of all the data regarding PPP loans, as they were the entity that provided these loans of behalf of the US government. However, the information provided on the SBA web link is not in searchable form. Instead, it’s a complete download of the dataset available here, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Hello Skip: This one is interesting. Hello Skip seems to have included their own PPP Loan search database for the purpose of driving traffic to their business. Per their About page: We’re a mission-driven company based in California that has helped over a million people since 2016 get easier access to government-related services and information.

It Gets Worse

Regardless of where the information is searched up, it’s out there. The above four are in no way an all-encompassing list. The Washington Post has their own searchable database. Investigative Reporting Workshop has PPP loan data split out by state for download.

What’s worse, as a proof of concept for their own service, Geocodio has even geocoded PPP loan data here. Meaning, if you took out a PPP loan for a business where the “office” is located in your home, and that information was made public due to the ruling mentioned above, that location can now be pinpointed directly on a map, along with how much money you received from the federal government. Not great.

So Now What Do I Do?

As of right now, there is no tried and true method for getting PPP loan information removed from the internet. In fact, ProPublica discusses their rationale for it here as such:

While we understand that loan applicants may not want information released about their loan applications, we believe it is important that details of the administration of the PPP loan program be available to the public. For those reasons, we decline to remove information on business loan applications from this site.

Removaly does not remove PPP loan information on behalf of its users. If we discover a way to do so, we will update this article with our findings. In the interim, keep an eye on places your personal information is available online from sources where this information can be removed.

If you’re concerned about the dozens of other sites that may have your personal information publicly available outside of PPP loan data, we recommend running a free scan with Removaly, which you can do here.

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