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How to remove public records from the Internet in five steps

The first big warning worked its way around the world during the day on Jan. Those users likewise no longer see themselves listed as possible family members or known associates of family who do still have profiles on the site. There are, however, some catches. Adding to the chaos? More often than not, opting out appears to work successfully.

Information about you has been available on the internet for decades. The Crash Override Network — dedicated to helping prevent internet-generated abuse, and helping its victims mitigate the effects — has links to several sites and lists that aggregate public records info that users afraid of having it intentionally leaked or who simply value their privacy can opt out of. Generally speaking, sites that exist to help users compile family trees work to protect the privacy of persons who are still living.

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FamilyTreeNow has no such protection built in. Instead, it touts its access to your data as a selling point. They include current and past addresses, possible aliases, all known relatives, and phone numbers. There is no other database like this on any other genealogy sites. It contains over 1. Those laws and policies may not mean much more about that in a moment , but Ancestry at least does make a token effort.

Another place where FamilyTreeNow stands out? Most similar sites start charging for access to anything other than the most basic data, or after a certain number of searches. It does, at least, make your information slightly less low-hanging fruit for targeting by the general public.

Charging a fee to sign up for a site will deter many idle minds from bothering, because a hurdle is a hurdle. Worse: To maintain its free-to-use status, FamilyTreeNow is plastered in ads — and many of them are both misleading and misleadingly placed. In the days since her multi-part tweet toured the world, Brittain has written a blog post about it reminding users that this is only one very tiny slice of an overall whole.

Two, your information can apparently reappear places like Spokeo after a certain period of time. All that public records data is, every day, easily and readily available to police, governments, marketers, and even journalists.

What threats do online public records create?

Millions of employees at thousands of public and private entities can, usually through paid means, quickly assemble profiles and dossiers about basically anyone. Every single state has its own public records laws, and more exist at the federal, county, and city levels. By law, some information — including information about births, deaths, marriages, divorces, property ownership, voting history, and more — will basically always be available for the asking. By merely existing in this world, you are going to continue to generate records. Your life, legally lived, is traceable.

Your information is known and recorded, and what can be put in a database can be accessed. Until or unless the law changes in a significant way, nothing is going to alter that. For many public-facing workers with a Twitter presence, the discovery of easily-queried address and network information like this leads to an instant panic moment.

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These types of documents can be extremely helpful when researching your family tree and history, as tracking down past family members and their spouses would be a real challenge without them. Birth, death, marriage and divorce records are typically managed and made available at the local county clerk's office where the event took place. States will also often have a department of health that can provide access to older vital records. In addition to physical locations, many states are putting or have put their databases online for ease of access. While certain high profile trials may have access restrictions during their actual proceedings, the happenings of a courthouse are a matter of public record.

Dockets, or summaries of a court case and its courtroom proceedings, are available for perusal after the case is closed.

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In the same way, records about defendants in such cases are available. Criminal records are also available through courthouse and police records databases, and list out any prior convictions or warrants for an individual. Some convictions, if overturned or if certain circumstances or time limits are met, can be expunged from a record, or at least sealed from public records and criminal background checks. Many online services offer criminal background and record checks for a free, but this information is usually availabe at a local government office or courthouse and can be obtained for free.

One of the earliest forms of public record keeping we know of pertained to property records. Once someone had purchased a plot of land, they wanted who it belonged to be an official record. Not much has changed, and property records pertaining to public lots, buildings or establishments are readily available.

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In addition, if a building or area was commissioned by the city itself, or by any public representative, records of the communications setting up the property as well as the contract terms themselves will, in most cases, be matters of public record. While private house sales and ownership are not subject to public records law, any real estate appraisals done on a property are public record to presumably ensure honesty in sales negotiations and expectations. County or city assessors typcially maitain and provide access to deeds, assessments and property tax records. Any official meeting of elected officials or public representative bodies is going to be covered by public record law as well. This doesn't just include mayoral and governor's offices, but can extend to other state representatives, town hall meetings, school district or school board meetings, and more.

Accountability is one of the cornerstones of why we have public records, and these types of records certainly further those ends. To obtain these records, you should contact the specific office of the official or group you are interested in. Some of the information available through public records requests is directly meant to be available for general safety reasons.