Opting Out of FamilyTreeNow.com and Other Public Information Sites
“So the barn door has been open for a long time and a lot of you just found out you have horses.”
A website that compiles public information into an easily searchable database and it’s free! That is very convenient for genealogists, private investigators…oh yeah, and anyone attempting phishing attacks. FamilyTreeNow.com is getting a lot of attention lately because they are doing just that.
There are many websites that provide aggregated public information, which you can access for a cost. That’s nothing new. What sets FamilyTreeNow.com apart is that they do it for free. That means your information (name, address, former addresses, relatives, etc) is almost certainly available, for free, to everyone. You probably don’t want that, so how do you opt out?
Opting out seems like a good idea, but as you will see, that may or may not be the case. Tom goes into greater detail of the opting out process in the video. Below we show the steps for opting out of FamilyTreeNow.com.
These steps are taken from FamilyTreeNow.com:
Step 1: After you click the ‘begin’ button below, you will be taken to the search page. Run a search for yourself.
Step 2: After you have found yourself in the results, click on the record detail. Verify that this is yourself and not just someone else with your same name.
Step 3: After you are 100% sure this is your record, click the big red ‘Opt Out’ button that is on the page.
Step 4: You are done. Please allow up to 48 hours for your request to be processed. Once it’s processed that record will be removed from all places on the site. Note: If you have multiple records that need to be removed, repeat steps 1-4.
Note: If you found your record via a search engine, go back to the exact record, then copy the URL from your browser address bar and submit it on our contact us page.
That isn’t too bad, but it is definitely more involved than perhaps it should be. Here are some links to opt out of a few of the fee-based sites as well:
You will see that many of these sites ask for verification documentation such as copies of your Driver’s License, Passport, or even notarized documentation of your identity. On one hand, it is important that these site verify that the correct person is opting out. On the other hand, you are verifying your information for them. We are not saying that these sites are doing this, but verified contact information could be sold to marketers for a good price. It is also important to keep in mind that opting out simply removes your information from being publicly available through the site. It does not remove your info from the database itself.
Where Do These Sites Get Your Information
Most states, counties, and cities make deed registration, mortgage, property tax, and more available online. This is public information. You cannot opt out of municipalities making it available. Companies use bots to crawl public administration sites and gather all of this data. There is nothing you can do about that.
These links will take you to the government sites Tom mentioned in the video:
We have not found any indication that FamilyTreeNow.com is including social media data in its aggregation, but some sites do use it. They can match you to relatives, friends, employers, and so on using your Facebook and other social media outlets.
We cannot say whether we recommend a call to action or a call to inaction when it come to opting out of these sites. You may, in fact, be opting out or you may be verifying your data. It is something that you should be aware of, however, and this will hopefully get discussion going about the topic.
Written by Marvin Anderson