Is PeekYou Good or Evil?

Category: Search-Engines

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.

PeekYou People Search

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

My article Can You Remove Yourself From The Internet? explores whether it is possible to wipe all traces of yourself from the Internet. There are some things you can try, but it's not easy to "opt out" of every link to your personal information.

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...

 
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This article was posted by on 30 Mar 2020


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Most recent comments on "Is PeekYou Good or Evil?"

Posted by:

Dave Baker
30 Mar 2020

Well I am in a little bit of luck. No place to search in Canada. YET


Posted by:

Ron Mullard
30 Mar 2020

Never heard of it,but sounds to me like an invasion of one's privacy and a breech of data protection.


Posted by:

JimM
30 Mar 2020

Be careful when accepting their 5 day trial terms. Most will give you that time in which to cancel your subscription but doing so is extremely difficult. Your best bet is to use legit genealogy sites such as Ancestry or FamilySearch.


Posted by:

Daniel
30 Mar 2020

Why do I never find info on the fact 95% OF all PUBLIC SEARCH engines are owned/controlled by the same company! Through my own searching for family and friends for over 20 years, I have seen the progress go from many to less than 3, with one controlling more than 95%, and at a very costly manner!


Posted by:

Daniel
30 Mar 2020

Wow!!! 95% of my question and info was eliminated!!!!!!!!!!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Daniel, I fixed it manually. You used the "less than" and "greater than" symbols which confused the rendering because they were seen as part of HTML tags.


Posted by:

Groman
30 Mar 2020

Evil! even Bob said Peek You returned incorrect info on him. May be that it would depend on the content of that incorrect info. As far as I am concerned 96.9% of the WWW is EVIL. Loaded with misinformation propaganda and out right lies social media included.

Nuff said


Posted by:

James Fuller Stiles
30 Mar 2020

Ironically, Been verified and three other personal info sites attached themselves to your article where one had to look at them while scrolling through the sections of that article.


Posted by:

Robert A.
30 Mar 2020

It's so interesting and also ironic that ads for "public records search" by BeenVerified appeared in the spaces between Bob's paragraphs.

I've noticed that many of the sites that once provided basic information (name, age, street address, a possible phone number and known previous addresses) for free are now charging for this most simple of information requests.

WhitePages.com used to do so, but now, in the past several years has jumped on the bandwagon, and is now only listing only name, age range of the person, and a possible city location in which the person you seek MAY have lived. If one knows the sought person's age range (40s, 50s, etc.) and several locations of current or previous residence, and the names of possible family members, one may be in luck, otherwise it's likely to be a crapshoot if that is the person you are seeking.


Posted by:

clyde
30 Mar 2020

been there done that, got so much took a while to print, looked at it, over 95% was not for me what they did have was wrong also and no way to get rid of it


Posted by:

misterfish
31 Mar 2020

Yet another good reason for never putting accurate personal details on Facebook or forums. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is my Facebook birthday. Go figure.


Posted by:

thenudehamster
31 Mar 2020

I used one of these sites - I can't recall which - a few year ago, just to see. The information it produced was so inaccurate it was beyond belief. It did record that I was married to my ex-wife, (something that happened outside the US) but not that we were divorced (in the US). No record of my move to a different state, nor of my subsequent remarriage, but they did have me 'related' to my new wife. There was no record that she'd passed away five years later either, nor of my leaving the country. The most recent information was at least ten years out of date - and most of it was inaccurate anyway. Considering that they claim to have access to 'all public records', to me, this alone demonstrates that their so-called searches are a waste of time and energy. Fortunately I never handed over any money...


Posted by:

RandiO
12 Apr 2020

Thank you, Mr. Rankin; now, I don't have to check up on you bcuz we all know all about you. I am wondering whether there could be more than one of you with your first+last name.
Instead of a 'people finder' website, what I would like more is a (reasonably priced) website/app where I can find and/or get notified of someone's death.
No! This is NOT a morbid fancy!


Posted by:

LouieLouie
23 Jul 2020

HA! According to PeekYou I am 101 years old. In another 50 years I’ll be able to live on the moon! I prefer the moon over Mars. I want to be able to listen to Breathe by Pink Floyd while cruising around to the Dark Side of the Moon.
Seriously, I don’t believe all of the web is evil. However if I were to make a top 10 evil www list, Facebook and PeekYou would be at the top. Facebook being number one. There was a time when it was cool but not these days. It’s 90% time wasting garbage imho,


Posted by:

Michael
21 Jan 2021

I have a concern that perhaps may be adequately addressed here. Can someone create ficticious social media accounts (facebook, twitter etc) in my name in order to control the illusion of inappropriate conduct, infer personal medical information, etc all for malicious intent. The purpose being, that any and all info that is then collected and presented by "peek you" when my name is googled, can be interpreted in a negative and derogatory way? Does "peek you" have any oversights to ensure that my name on any social media affiliated account is actually in fact me. I ask because, i do not have one single active social media account. I never created one and therefore post
nothing for the world to see. So where is the information presented by "peek you" to denote me coming from? Some info is only privy to close friends. My name being associated with some of the social agencies appearing in my "peek you" profile would not publicly release or acknowledge my affiliation. That would be a violation of confidentiality as mandated in the HIPPA regulations. I am deeply concerned that people will interpret the legitimacy of the info presented as true and factual because they hold themselves in such high esteem. Tell some people that something is true and they believe it is. I am baffled at the utility (or should i say "futility") of this company. And how do you "Opt-Out" of something you were never given the option to ("Opt-In") be included in to begin with?


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