FTC settles privacy complaint against online data broker

US Search failed to provide the records-blocking service that customers paid for, the FTC says

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with online data broker US Search on complaints that the company failed to deliver on promises that it would not share the records of customers who paid a fee.

US Search, which advertises itself as the top people search website in the U.S., offered to "lock" the records of customers who paid a US$10 fee, so that other people using the service could not see or buy the records, the FTC said in a news release Wednesday.

But US Search's PrivacyLock service, available since June 2009, did not block consumers' names from showing up as an associate of someone else, did not block consumers' information from appearing in a reverse search of their phone numbers or addresses, and did not work if the consumers changed addresses, the FTC said.

US Search's public relations department didn't immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment on the settlement.

Under the settlement, US Search must refund the fees paid by nearly 5,000 customers to have their records locked. The settlement also bars US Search from misrepresentations about the effectiveness of any service that promises to remove information about consumers from its website, the FTC said.

US Search promised to remove the personal information of PrivacyLock customers from its site and the websites of affiliates and advertisers, the FTC said in a complaint. "When you enroll in the US Search PrivacyLock Service, you are taking a valuable step in securing your personal information," the company said on its website. "While many information providers either don't offer or don't honor privacy solutions, US Search quickly processes each request and provides verifiable results that can be backed by our 1 year promise."

US Search, based in Culver City, California, compiles public records and sells data about consumers. The records include names, addresses, phone numbers, plus information about aliases, marriages, divorces, bankruptcies, neighbors, associates, criminal records and home values, the FTC said. The company offers background checks and criminal records checks.

US Search also allows customers to search using a person's Social Security number. For a fee, the site will provide the bankruptcy information, civil judgments and tax liens of a person targeted by a customer. The site says it can provide address histories going back 40 years.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags U.S. Federal Trade Commissione-commerceregulationsecurityCivil lawsuitslegalUS Searchgovernmentinternetprivacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?