People Searches: Is It Legal to Search for a Person Online?


For whatever reason, you may want to seek out a person but have no idea how to reach them or where they are. At one point or another, you might have had heard of the idea of conducting a people search to see if you could find them. While effective free online people searches can certainly provide you with contact or location details for a person, you may be wondering just how legal they are.

What is a People Search?

To those unfamiliar with the term, people search websites collect information on people and compile it into a single report. By just providing a name and general location, if you know it, a people search site can generate a comprehensive summary on the person you are trying to locate or contact.

All of the information that is compiled is public record, which means if it exists publicly then it could come up in the report. However, if the information is not listed on any public server then it may not be available. Theoretically, it would be possible for a person to never show up on a people search result page if they had absolutely no online activity.

What Information Does a People Search Tell You?

Depending on the site you use, a people search will tell you different things. However, people search results will most often show you:
- Contact information such as a name or phone number
- Last known address for an individual
- Potential family members associated with that individual
- The person’s education level
- Any properties listed under that person’s name
- Marital status and any records related to it
- Any current potential roommates
- Criminal record if applicable
- Any civil records

As evident by the ample information above, it’s only natural to wonder whether or not a people search is legal in the first place.

Is it Legal to Search for a Person Online?

In short, a people search is completely legal considering all of the information being pulled is public record. Additionally, there are currently no federal laws that prevent companies from publishing the types of information outlined above. However, it’s worth noting that this means the information you are seeing may not actually be accurate as well.

When an Online Search Becomes Illegal

While the act of looking up a person using a people search site is not illegal, there are certain situations where the legality becomes a gray area. For example, if an individual has plans of stalking another person and uses a people search to acquire information on them, the action could be argued to be part of the crime in a court of law.

Additionally, any other type of crime that stems from using a people search platform will make the action of finding the person illegal, typically being qualified as stalking in a court of law. Never use an online people finder platform for illegal purposes such as having the intention to commit a crime.

Items to Consider Before Conducting an Online Search

There are a number of items that are important to keep in mind when conducting a people search:
- The information you find on a website may not be accurate, or it may be incomplete, which can lead you down a rabbit hole
- Anybody can request that a company take their information off their website, which means they may not be found on the people search platform
- You may not like what you find when you get the results of the people search back, as unknown criminal acts -may pop up
- Not all people searches are free – to get the most results at a background check level, a person will be required to pay in most cases
- You can use a people search to secure your own identity by seeing what the sites know about yourself

People search platforms can help people from all over the world connect with each other in new ways, but always use the tool responsibly and never for criminal activity.

Reconnect with the person you’re looking for today

People searches only use publicly available information, simply compiled into a database in one place. This makes them completely legal, accredited, and helpful. In fact, many people have been able to locate old friends or loved ones who they lost track of over the years by using a people search. So long as you aren’t using the search results for illegal means, such as stalking, a people search can be a legal and helpful tool for answering your questions. 

Do You Need An Attorney?

If so, post a short summary of your legal needs to our site and let attorneys submit applications to fulfill those needs. No time wasted, no hassle, no confusion, no cost.

Posted - 02/27/2023