Don’t Make Me Tell Congress On You…
The majority of people search websites provide opt out policies on their websites. Those sites balance the public availability of personal information with personal control over that information (or at least the aggregated version of the information people search sites sell). As a result, there hasn’t been a huge push to legislate online people search.
Their FAQ suggests that they won’t let you opt out of their database searches because that would alter the reflection of what information is publicly available. The FAQ creates the impression that the only way to remove your records from their search results is to have them removed from the public record. To do that you generally need a court order, which is a hefty requirement. Furthermore, DOBsearch’s FAQ creates the impression that public records are an all or nothing proposition where a middle way exists and works well.
There are good reasons to have records that are public but not available via people search sites. Information about who is the true owner of land, mineral rights and cars allows better accountability in the event of theft or trespass and in the event of a negligence lawsuit. Allowing specific public information to be accessed by individuals with a legitimate need while removing that same information from aggregated online searches is perfectly reasonable.
What places like this are missing is that if you stand on the edge of legality you’re likely to erode that edge. At the moment, society relies on the good intentions of people search websites and the difficulties that come with data aggregation (time, technical skill and in the case of private data banks, cost). The twin protections of good intentions and difficulty aren’t bullet proof, but as long as both remain intact the balance between data freedom and privacy is maintained.
The closer people search sites cut it the great the pressure will be to pass more stringent laws about online privacy. When that happens the laws are likely to go far beyond opt out policies. That time may come, but why force the issue by refusing to have an opt out policy?