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Yahoo! and Your Personal Information

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Yahoo's public records search offers very basic information, but for a fee, you might be surprised at all of the information about yourself that can be found online.

Yahoo's public records search says that it allows you to "search thousands of public databases with one click! Find addresses, property, licenses, court records and more." If you enter a name and address, it returns a list of names that match, including ages.

These results aren't from Yahoo itself, but rather from its partner, USSearch.com, a public records search company. While being able to find out how old your neighbors are is amusing, you can, for a fee, get much more detailed information about anyone in the vast databases USSearch.com taps into.

Try searching on your own name (scroll down to the public records search form, with the bluish background). If you find a link to what appears to be information about you, the company offers six services that provide more information.

A "basic people search" costs $9.95, and returns a full reported name (first and last, middle name or initial, and phone numbers (if available). USSearch.com says that they search over 200,000,000 records instantly to provide this information.

For $39.95, you get an "advanced people search." This includes everything from the basic report, a full history of where you've lived over the years, possible aliases, and a deceased search.

$59.95 gets you an "expert assisted people search" where a "location specialist ensures you get the best possible results." The report includes everything in the advanced search results, plus relatives, roommates and neighbors, bankruptcies, tax liens, small claims civil judgments, marriage and divorces, and real property ownership and value.

Want more? Just $99.95 gets you an "expert assisted background search" with everything above, plus an on-premise county criminal search, which includes case number, charge offense, arrest file, disposition date, disposition & sentence, and free local and national media web-based search including over 675 sources.

Sound creepy? As personal as it seems, almost all of this information is contained in public records. USSearch.com does not maintain the databases it searches. Instead, it accesses separately maintained third party databases to collect information for the reports they provide.

According to the company's privacy policy, you can request to opt out of reports containing non-public record information (sources like information compiled from magazine subscriptions) that is available for sale to the general public. But the company "cannot provide any assurance that information that is otherwise public record information, such as court records, will be withheld."

As time goes on, more and more public records are going online, and firms like USSearch.com, via major destination sites like Yahoo, are making it easier than ever for literally anyone with a credit card to access this information. While this can be a good thing (think: doing a background check before hiring a nanny for your children), it also has the result of exposing what you might consider very personal information to the prying eyes of anyone who cares to snoop about you.

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