The Federal Trade Commission announced that it has settled charges against online databroker U.S. Search, Inc., concerning the company’s privacy claims. U.S. Search charged customers $10 for the promise that it could “lock their records” so people could not see or buy them. “The settlement requires that the operation refund the fees it charged to nearly 5,000 consumers and bars misrepresentations about the effectiveness of any service that purports to remove information about consumers from the broker’s website,” the FTC said.
US Search, Inc., is an online data broker that compiles public records and sells data about consumers to the public. The records may contain not only names, addresses and phone numbers, but also information such as aliases, marriages and divorces, bankruptcies, neighbors, associates, criminal records, and home values. […]
Since June 2009, US Search sold consumers its “PrivacyLock” Service, which it claimed would allow them to “lock their records” and prevent their names and other information from appearing on the company’s website, its search results, or advertisements for a year.
According to the FTC complaint, the claims were false. The agency alleged the PrivacyLock Service:
- did not block consumers’ names from showing up as an associate of someone else in a search for the other person’s name;
- did not block consumers’ information from appearing in a “reverse search” of their phone number or address, or in a search of their address in real estate records;
- did not work if the consumer changed addresses, thereby generating new records that would not be subject to the PrivacyLock; and did not work if the consumer had multiple records – for example “John Smith” and “John T. Smith.”
If you wish to be heard about the proposed consent agreement, the FTC is allowing the public 30 days to file comments; the deadline is Oct. 22, 2010.
To file a public comment electronically, please click on the following hyperlink and follow the instructions: https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/ussearch. Written comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.