If you’ve ever conducted an online search for information about someone—a potential love interest, job applicant or even yourself—your search results probably turned up links from multiple data brokers. These companies crawl public records, mailing lists, surveys, social media profiles and other sources of information to create a digital data profile for millions of individuals.
This information can be potentially useful, especially if you’re looking for contact information for friends or relatives with whom you’ve lost touch or trying to assess whether a match on a dating site is who they seem to be. However, data brokers also sell this information to various businesses, including advertisers, marketers, insurance brokers and other data mining companies, allowing them to profit from your personally identifiable information. This is where a Spokeo Opt Out can play into your needs.
As one of the largest online data brokers, Spokeo has almost certainly amassed a significant amount of personal information about you—information that you may not want to be accessible to anyone willing to fork over a few dollars to get it. Whether you want to reduce the number of unsolicited marketing calls and emails you receive or you simply want to protect your online privacy, removing yourself from Spokeo’s digital database can help restore some peace of mind.
What is Spokeo?
Spokeo is just one of dozens of online data brokers that gathers personal information about individuals from a wide range of online sources and then aggregates that data in a single report about the person. Spokeo then makes that information available for purchase by anyone who wants it.
The company launched in 2006 as a social network aggregator and shifted its focus to being a “people search engine” in 2010. The company boasts more than 20 million monthly visitors that conduct half a million searches each day. Spokeo offers several membership plans, including a single month for $20 and a three-month membership that drops the monthly cost to $15.
Membership confers access to more than 12 billion online records, and members can search for information about virtually anyone who hasn’t gone through the opt out process.
Data brokers like Spokeo do serve a legitimate purpose—for example, they can provide vital assistance to adoptees searching for their biological families or offer clues to people conducting genealogy research—but they can also be used for more nefarious purposes, such as predatory marketing or stalking.
How Does Spokeo Work?
Spokeo uses several forms of web scraping software to gather personally-identifying information from the following sources:
- Consumer indexes, which typically include your name, age, address and other demographic details from consumer profiles
- Phone directories
- Email databases
- Property records from government agencies, including real estate deeds and tax assessment records
- Social networks
- Court records, including arrest warrants, traffic violations, sex offender databases and fugitive records
- Business directories, which may include your name, title, business address, website and email address
- Vital statistics drawn from government records like birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees
Many people are unaware that not only is this information publicly available, but it’s also completely legal for data brokers to collect it and sell it. Unless you explicitly opt out of these databases, they will continue to profit from your personal information, but they are legally bound to comply with your request to remove you from their sites.
What are the Risks?
As many of the activities of daily life continue to shift online, it’s an undeniable fact that your private information exists in the digital world for almost anyone to find. This reality may not be particularly unnerving to some people, who (correctly) point out that all of the information is already publicly available and that data brokers like Spokeo simply aggregate it into a single source.
However, a growing number of people are uncomfortable knowing their personal data is no longer private and that it can be easily accessed and used to commit fraud, identity theft, stalking, harassment and a long list of other nefarious activities. While opting out of Spokeo won’t erase your personal data from the internet, it does make it more challenging to find.
Once you opt out, someone searching for your personal information would be forced to manually visit multiple sources to compile the same packet of information that Spokeo previously provided with a single click. Opting out doesn’t make you immune to online criminal activity, but it does make you less of an easy target.
How to Remove Yourself from Spokeo
If you’ve decided that exercising additional control over your personal data is worth the time and effort it takes to opt out of Spokeo, the guide below will take you step-by-step through the process.
Spokeo Opt Out Guide
Completing the process described here will remove your personal information from Spokeo’s database, but keep in mind that you’ll need to go through similar steps with other data brokers (including Intelius, PeekYou and a host of others) to ensure that your personal information is virtually impossible to find online.
- First, create an email account that doesn’t use your name or any personally identifying information—the more generic, the better. You’ll use this email to complete the removal process with Spokeo, which requires you to click on a link within a confirmation email to finalize your removal. Creating this “burner” email account prevents Spokeo from retaining (and potentially sharing) an email address you use for business or personal correspondence. Guerrilla Mail, which offers temporary “disposable” email addresses, is a good option for this step, but make sure to complete the process before your account automatically disappears.
- Go to Spokeo and conduct a search for your name, including any variations that may exist online: professional names, maiden names, nicknames, full names, middle names and even your spouse’s name.
- Click on any results that apply to you, starting with the state where you currently live, and click on your street address. Copy the URL of the page that lists all available information about the person associated with the address.
- Next, navigate to the bottom of the page and click on the “Privacy” link; scroll down again and choose the “Opt Out” form.
- At this point, you’ll paste the URL you copied earlier into the first box and enter your temporary email address into the second box. Check the CAPTCHA box and click on the “Remove this listing” button.
- Check your temporary email account for a confirmation email from Spokeo. If it’s not in your main inbox, look in the Spam folder. Open the email and click the link to confirm that you wish to remove the listing.
- You’ll need to repeat this process for any other listings for you that are associated with different addresses, and Spokeo does cap the number of removals at five, so if you have a long list of entries, you may have to use another temporary email address or wait a few days to finish removing all of them.
What Information Does Spokeo Remove?
While Spokeo will no longer include your information in its listings going forward, keep in mind that dozens of other entities—other data mining companies, marketers and individual users, for example—may have already accessed, downloaded and shared or sold your personal data. Simply opting out of Spokeo won’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.
You may also notice that your Spokeo listing still shows up in search engine results for your name, even after completing the opt out process. While users won’t be able to access your previous Spokeo record, they may still see snippets of your personal information in the search results preview. This information may linger online for some time depending on how various search engines index their results.
Additionally, the information sources Spokeo used to compile its profile of you still exist online, just not all in one place. Eliminating most or all of them can be an incredibly tedious and time-consuming process, which is why thousands of people rely on third-party removal services like Removaly, which uses powerful web search tools to locate and handle opt out processes for hundreds of online directory sites, data brokers and other information aggregators.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spokeo Listing Removal
How long does it take to get my information removed from Spokeo?
According to Spokeo, your personal information can take up to 24 hours to disappear from its site, although removal may occur more quickly in some cases.
Is the process of removing my information from Spokeo secure?
When you use a data removal service like Removaly, any information you submit goes through SSL encryption to protect its security. If you choose to complete the opt out process yourself, Spokeo doesn’t offer any guarantees about the security of your data.
The site claims “We work hard to provide an unprecedented level of security for our site in general,” but the only specific guarantees involve credit card information, which is encrypted with industry standard 128-bit SSL technology.
What does Spokeo do with my personal information?
Generally speaking, the information you use to remove yourself from Spokeo is used for that purpose alone. However, using an email address created explicitly for the removal process (as recommended in the step-by-step opt out guide) helps ensure that your personal or professional email address won’t inadvertently be retained or shared.
I have more than one listing on Spokeo. What should I do?
Spokeo draws its data from thousands of online sources, including government records, social media, marketing databases and even other data brokers. This online information has accrued over the course of your lifetime, so if you’ve used different names at different times or for different purposes (such as replacing a maiden name with a married name or using a nickname to subscribe to a magazine or digital newsletter), you may have separate records for each variation. Changes in address can also trigger new records.
Unfortunately, each of these separate listings must be removed via a separate opt out process. One of the primary benefits of data removal services like Removaly is that they take on this time-consuming, repetitive work for you, so you have more time to devote to the things you care about most.
What if I don’t have the time available to remove my data from these sites?
If your information is on Spokeo, it’s almost certainly available through other data brokers as well, and there are dozens of them. Some are well-known and easy to find, such as Intelius, Whitepages and People Finder, but others fly under the radar and can be difficult for the average person to locate. Even if you were to focus just on the more visible data brokers, completing all of the removal requests, confirmations and any needed follow-up can eat up hours of valuable time. Services like Removaly are able not only to locate both the highly visible and the obscure data mining services, but also take on the burden of completing the opt out process for all of them, allowing you to redirect your resources elsewhere.
Spokeo and The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), passed in 2018 and implemented in January 2020, significantly shifted the landscape for online data brokers like Spokeo.
Under the law, California residents have the right to:
- Request that a business collecting personal information disclose the categories of information it collects, as well as the specific information the business has collected on that person and the purpose for which it was collected.
- Request that a business delete any personal information it may have collected about them.
- Request that the business disclose the categories of personal information it sells and the purpose of the sale, as well as any personal information for that individual that the business has sold.
- Opt out of having their personal data retained or sold by a business.
Not only must companies comply with these requests at no charge to the requesting individual, but they are also required to provide a clear venue for consumers to make these requests (typically a phone number, website, email address or some combination of these). Companies’ websites must also include a detailed description of consumers’ rights regarding the collection and sale of their personal data.