Privacy Information


PeopleSmart is transforming the people search industry through its unique search technology, easy-to-use interface, and commitment to innovation. Exciting stuff, yes, but nothing is as important to us as our unprecedented privacy protections. In short, providing you with a privacy-friendly people search engine is our #1 priority.

What is Privacy?

Privacy in general is "the quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others." The word "private" comes from the Latin "privatus" meaning "not in public life."

What laws exist to protect privacy?

A wide range of legislation has been enacted by Congress to protect individual privacy, from the expected (US Census responses) to the unusual (video rental records).

Speaking broadly, US privacy laws cover the following topics:

  • Communications
  • Financial data
  • Health records
  • Education records
  • Marketing and advertising communications
  • Government records about citizens

What is a privacy policy?

A privacy policy is a statement or document that outlines and discloses how an organization gathers, stores, manages, and discloses customer data. While many companies will copy-and-paste generic privacy policies that give them a wide range of discretion over how they could potentially use your data, a good privacy policy will give you a clear idea about exactly what information the company collects about you, and how it will be used. Because legal terminology around privacy can be complex and confusing at times, online communities like TOS:DR have been created, which assign ratings to companies based on the level of privacy they give you.

How do I keep information about me out of search results?

There is no surefire way to guarantee that information about you will never appear in search results. However, there are some techniques that you can use to minimize the amount of information shown. Using a nickname on social networks, having a throwaway email account for commenting on blog posts, and locking down any online profiles to prevent them from being publicly viewable, are all steps that will keep you off the front page of Google.

On the other hand, you may want some information to be available while minimizing any negative or private content. While some companies may advertise their ability to control search results about you, there is no way for them to completely eliminate negative content, and you should be cautious of anyone who promises to do so. Instead, work to publish positive content that will rise to the top of search results, pushing negative content to the bottom.

How can privacy be improved in the people search industry?

In a general sense, courts, legislatures, and regulatory agencies can continue to apply laws with current and future technology in mind; educate consumers and industry leaders; and punish companies that violate privacy laws. Already, courts have held data brokers accountable for breaking the law, and the Supreme Court bolstered the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by finding that a defendant violates the Act if they willfully fail to comply with it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also recently brought charges against companies that violated users' privacy and ignored FCRA violations, which is encouraging. In addition, the FTC has shown exceptional energy and done important work by educating and protecting consumers and leading industry discussions. We fully support this work.

Of course, regulation alone is not enough. We believe the people search industry needs to provide more transparency about their public record sources, and give consumers more control over their personal information. This will help greatly reduce the potential for misuse of personal information.

How does the Federal Trade Commission protect consumer privacy?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for enforcing legislation and rules around fair and honest business practices. When a business is suspected of scamming customers or misusing their personal information, the FTC will investigate and bring charges accordingly. The FTC also provides guidance to businesses on good privacy practices and data security.

What is location privacy?

Location privacy refers to the concept of having control over who knows where you are and where you’ve been, as well as any additional data that may be associated with your location. To some extent, everyone sacrifices a certain amount of location privacy simply by stepping out of the house. In legal terminology, your "expectation of privacy" is diminished any time you enter a public place. However, the cost of obtaining your location has drastically decreased with the proliferation of GPS-enabled devices.

Until recently, police would to have physically follow suspects in order to track them. Now, a single officer may be able to simultaneously track dozens of individuals through a single computer screen. While you’re probably not being constantly tracked in real-time by local law enforcement, companies like your cell phone carrier still keep extended records of where your devices go. The amount of information available about your location and travel habits has skyrocketed, while regulations and industry best practices have struggled to keep up.

What is privacy with respect to social networks?

With respect to online social networks, privacy is the state of having information you post or is collected about you remain "secluded," whether from everyone else or just certain others. It is, in effect, about keeping some information out of "the public life."

To this end, social networks typically allow their users to decide who sees all, some, or none of the information they post. This is accomplished through privacy settings that control, for example, whether just anyone on the Internet can access a user’s posted content or only their chosen contacts.

Also, social network operators tell their users how their personal data is used, and let them know the extent to which the information may be used regardless of privacy settings. This is accomplished via a "privacy policy" viewable in advance by prospective users of the social network.