“You may be shocked to find,” the people-search websites pitch, that you or the other person you’re searching for “has a criminal record.” Other sites offer “millions of records that expose” a person for who they “really are.”
These kinds of “people search” sites are myriad. They copy from one another, and removing your information from them, while technically possible in fine-print fashion, could take days or weeks. Mozilla, the Firefox maker expanding into a suite of privacy-minded tools, has an alternative to clicking and hoping.
There’s a bit of name and definition confusion in how Mozilla refers to background search or people-finding sites as “data brokers.” The term is also used to refer to companies that gather information not from public records and Internet history, but from the online traces left by account sign-ups, advertising, web browsing, and other things you do after clicking to agree to vague Terms of Service. Such data brokers—almost certainly working alongside the other “people search” variety—can have staggering amounts of data on nearly everybody and sell it to customers like the NSA and FBI.
Still, every bit helps. Monitor claims to have helped 10 million people be alerted when their data showed up in data breaches. Using Monitor Plus, removing your data from broker sites “typically takes 7 to 14 days,” according to Mozilla (though sometimes “within the hour”), with progress monitored and displayed. It’s a web-based product that doesn’t require Firefox to use, with a FAQ for more details.
Monitor Plus adds to Mozilla’s recent slate of privacy-focused offerings, including a VPN service (which we reviewed in 2020) and Relay, a phone and email masking service. You can bundle VPN and Relay for a notably discounted price, and we’d expect to see VPN, Relay, and Monitor Plus brought together in a privacy-focused bundle at some point.