Have you ever Googled yourself and been startled by the amount of your personal information available online for anyone to see? Whitepages.com is one of the largest compilers of consumers‘ names, addresses, phone numbers and more – which can be concerning if you value your privacy and security.
As an experienced cybersecurity professional, I‘m passionate about helping people reclaim control of their personal data. In this article, I‘ll explain everything you need to know about Whitepages, the risks of having your information listed, and most importantly – how you can opt-out and remove your details with just a few simple steps.
A Look at The Whitepages Data Aggregation Powerhouse
Whitepages touts itself as the largest and most trusted online directory with information on over 250 million Americans. Originally starting out in 1997 as an online phone book, over the past 25+ years Whitepages has ballooned into a massive data aggregation operation.
Some key stats on Whitepages:
- 50 billion public and consumer records in its database
- Over 2 million new records added daily
- 35 million monthly users
- Database updated over 5 million times per day
- Owns over 20 different websites aggregating consumer data
So how does Whitepages get its hands on so much of our personal information? The website gathers data from a variety of both public and private sources, including:
- Public records – property deeds, marriage & divorce filings, voter registrations, court records
- Phone and utility companies
- User submitted information
- Hundreds of data partners such as data brokers, people search sites, marketing companies
From its myriad of sources, Whitepages has compiled shockingly extensive profiles on people that contain:
- Full legal name
- Aliases and maiden names
- Age and date of birth
- Current and past home addresses
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Criminal records
- Bankruptcies, liens, and lawsuits
- Marriage and divorce details
- Business affiliations
- Estimated net worth
- Relatives, associates, and neighbors
And this is just the tip of the iceberg on the types of information found in the Whitepages database. Many consumers are caught completely off guard that so many intimate details about themselves and their families are being bought and sold on these people search websites.
While Whitepages offers some basic information for free, even more sensitive records are made available if you purchase one of their paid subscription plans that range from $4.99 to $29.99 per month.
Their premium reports can contain your full background check, employment history, drug prescriptions, bank account details, and more.
The Disturbing Implications of Data Aggregation
At this point you may be wondering – just how did Whitepages get its hands on this goldmine of our collective personal information? And what are the disturbing privacy implications of having your details catalogued on these types of data broker websites?
“Data aggregation is one of the most insidious threats to privacy. Most people have no idea companies like Whitepages even exist, or that their entire lives are being monitored and sold.” – Privacy researcher and activist John Davis
The alarming truth is that Whitepages along with hundreds of other "data brokers" have found ways to profit off of buying and selling vast troves of consumers‘ personal records. Oftentimes this data trading happens without the knowledge or consent of the individuals themselves.
While Whitepages may have originally started out as just an online phone book, regulatory loopholes and lax oversight have allowed it to morph into something that would make even the NSA blush.
"Firms like Whitepages have accrued disturbing amounts of personal details to stock their ever-expanding databases. All under the hollow justification of ‘public records‘ while operating in the shadows and avoiding consumer consent." – Leading privacy advocate Rebecca Brown
There are more ethical debates to be had regarding the business of aggregating and disseminating private citizen‘s information. But the more immediate concern for individuals is how this data could be misused or abused when it ends up on sites like Whitepages.
The Dangers of Having Your Information Exposed Online
Most people underestimate the privacy risks posed by companies like Whitepages scraping and compiling vast amounts of our personal information. But consider just some of the ways this data could be misused:
- Identity theft – Criminals can use your name, address, age and other details to open fraudulent accounts in your name. According to the FTC, tax identity theft has increased by a staggering 649% from 2019 to 2022.
|# of Tax Identity Theft Reports
Stalking and harassment – Abusers and other malicious actors can look up your phone number, home address, relatives and other info to stalk, harass, or steal your identity. This practice is also known as doxxing.
Reputation harm – Details like arrests, bankruptcies and lawsuits could unfairly harm your reputation and be used against you when applying to jobs, leases or loans.
SIM swapping – Fraudsters could potentially use your personal info to SIM swap your mobile number, allowing them to hack into your online accounts.
Scams – Robocallers, phishing schemes, extortion attempts – your name, email and phone number are prime targets for fraudsters seeking their next victim.
Hopefully this illustrates just how dangerous it can be to have your sensitive information readily available to anyone on people search sites. And criminals aren‘t the only ones browsing this data – landlords, employers and others may make unfair assessments based on records found on sites like Whitepages.
"I had a job offer rescinded once because the employer did a background check and saw an old bankruptcy filing from years ago that I wasn‘t given a chance to explain."- Jason, identity theft victim
So how can you reclaim your privacy when companies like Whitepages are hoovering up your personal details? The good news is that in most cases you have the right to opt-out.
How to Remove Yourself from Whitepages Listings
If you want to eliminate the risks of having your personal details in the Whitepages database, the good news is opting out is a relatively quick and straightforward process. Here are the basic steps:
Go to the Whitepages website and search for your name/number to find your listing. Make note of which page has your info.
Copy the URL of your listing‘s webpage.
Go to the Whitepages opt-out page.
Paste your URL into the removal request form.
Verify your identity by entering a phone number to receive a verification code.
- Tip: Use a Google Voice number instead of your actual number
Input the code and confirm removal of your listing.
That‘s the basic gist – Whitepages will then process your request and your listing should disappear within 24 hours.
This 1-minute video also nicely summarizes the Whitepages opt-out process step-by-step.
Opting Out of Whitepages Premium Reports
It‘s important to note that removing yourself from the free Whitepages listings does not automatically exclude you from their Premium reports.
These paid reports which contain very sensitive information require additional steps to opt-out:
Locate your Whitepages profile and copy the URL of the "View Full Report" button.
Go to the Whitepages support page and submit a removal request.
Paste the Premium Report URL and list the name, number, address, etc you want excluded.
Explain clearly that you want your information completely removed from Premium reports.
Following these steps will ensure your details are not only removed from free Whitepages listings, but also their paid background check services.
Enlist Outside Help to Remove Your Data from Other Sites
While opting out of Whitepages is important, they are far from the only website that‘s stockpiling and selling access to your personal records.
Hundreds of other data brokers, people search sites, and background check companies are also trafficking in consumers‘ names, addresses, phone numbers and more – often without direct consent.
Manually trying to opt out from each of these entities would be extremely laborious and time consuming.
That‘s why specialized opt-out services such as DeleteMe, OneRep and Kanary are so useful. They automate the process of getting your personal information removed from hundreds of different data broker websites.
Here‘s a brief overview of how these services work and some of the top options to consider:
DeleteMe – Submits opt-out requests to hundreds of sites on your behalf and provides monthly removal reports. Basic plan starts at $129/year.
OneRep – Automatically removes your info from 192+ sites and monitors to keep you opted out. Costs $199/year.
Kanary – Scans and removes your details from over 1,000 data broker sites. Plans start at $99/year.
Instead of manually tracking down each data broker site, services like DeleteMe do the heavy lifting for you. They simplify the process so you can focus on more important things (like actually living your life!).
The few hundred dollars per year is generally worth it for the significant time savings and peace of mind of knowing your information is no longer being bought and sold in shady databases.
Key Takeaways: Protect Your Privacy
In closing, here are the key tips I would emphasize about the Whitepages directory and reclaiming your online privacy:
Whitepages functions as a massive data aggregation operation, compiling vast troves of individuals‘ personal details from myriad sources. This frequently occurs without consumers‘ knowledge or consent.
Having your information Listed on Whitepages and similar sites poses risks of identity theft, stalking, reputation harm, and other types of fraud or harassment.
You have the right to opt-out and submit removal requests to Whitepages for both standard and Premium reports. Following the steps outlined above will get you delisted.
Look into comprehensive opt-out services such as DeleteMe that will remove you from data broker sites beyond just Whitepages.
Be proactive about defending your privacy! The onus is on individuals to constantly monitor what data is being collected and shared without your permission.
I hope this guide has shed light on the critical issue of data aggregation, as well as actionable tips to better secure your personal information. We all deserve privacy, safety and freedom from exploitation – especially when it comes to our own identities and lives.