Is PeekYou Good or Evil?
A reader asks: 'I recently heard about a people search website called PeekYou, and when I searched for myself, I was shocked at the personal information they had compiled about me. Can you explain how they do this, and if I should really be concerned?' Sure, let's dig into PeekYou and render a verdict...
PeekYou - A People Search Engine
PeekYou.com bills itself as "the smartest way to find people online." But after looking for myself and some friends on PeekYou, I beg to differ. PeekYou is a Web search engine, like Google or Bing. Using its "algorithmic" secret sauce, PeekYou tries to estimate the probability that a set of particulars or a Web page belongs to a particular person. Don't ask me how it works. It did find some of my personal information, but not everything it turned up was correct.
PeekYou listed several cities in which I have lived, in some cases with partially obscured street addresses and phone numbers. (It also listed some cities where I've never lived, and supposed relatives that do not exist.) This real-world information is where PeekYou and its partners make their real money. Clicking on one of the links for more information about me or others I tested seemed like the natural thing to do.
But those clicks took me to new websites run by BeenVerified, Spokeo, TruthFinder, InstantCheckmate, and other public records aggregators. These firms buy billions of personal records from public sources - property records, court records, motor vehicle departments, voter registrations, etc. - and data from utilities, phone companies, the U. S. Postal Service change-of-address database, and other sources.
Of course, aggregators buy data so that they can charge you for it. On one site, I could get all 131 "People Search" records associated with my name. Each record includes name, most recent address and address history, date of birth, phone number (if available), and potential relatives. A $14.95 day pass would let me search for unlimited persons and download their reports in a 24 hour period. A $39.95 "background report" would include property records, criminal history, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, lawsuits, even a death certificate record. I didn't fork over my credit card, but I'm hoping that only ONE of those items would show up in my report. :-)
All of these sites that offer to help you "Search People & Public Records" have something in common. They promise to check "billions of data points and dozens of data sources" and provide access to all the public data they can find. But you have to endure screen after screen and several wasted minutes viewing fake progress bars and spinning circles, before they hit you with the sales pitch. And in some cases you can't even pay to view the report. They want you to sign up for a subscription that costs $20 to $30 per month. And you know how hard those things are to cancel. No thanks, again.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
As I mentioned earlier, PeekYou also turned up a bunch of erroneous information, linking me to people, places, and phone numbers that are just completely wrong. It got my age wrong by 12 years, and listed my current address as a house I sold years ago. Your mileage may vary.
It seems that PeekYou is just a honey-pot, a lure to draw visitors into its search engine where, hopefully, they will take the bait and pay one of PeekYou's partners for access to public records. PeekYou, of course, gets a slice of the pie in the form of an affiliate commission.
Some people are concerned that searching for their name on PeekYou reveals details they assumed were private. This includes their address, and in some cases an map which pinpoints their home address. Other details can include links to your Facebook and Twitter profiles, names of relatives, and previous addresses. There's nothing criminal about aggregating the public records needed to create a profile of an individual. I would stop sort of calling it "evil" but the privacy implications of for-hire data aggregators are significant.
For less than ten bucks, a stalker may be able to track down his or her victim using just a name and some educated guesses. Of course, there are less alarming, legitimate uses for people-finders. Employment background checks, finding missing heirs, skip tracing, and just hooking up with high school pals are some examples.
I would not recommend PeekYou over Google for finding someone's online traces. But if you need to locate a person in the real world, and are willing to spend some money, public records aggregators are sometimes a viable (but not infallible) option. The information for which you pay may be incomplete or unreliable.
Tell me what you think about PeekYou and other public record search engines. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Mar 2020
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is PeekYou Good or Evil? (Posted: 30 Mar 2020)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved