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By Cindy Coleman for PoliceOne BrandFocus

Personal information found freely on the internet is being used to target LEOs. The security risk is real to them and their families. Daily news headlines reflect an increasingly hostile environment for LEOs – “MS – 13 gang planning to target off-duty officers at their homes,” “Targeted attack on at least seven Indianapolis officers’ homes in one night,” and “Philly police officer facing backlash.” Because of this growing hostility, LEOs are on high alert, not only on the job, but even at home where they are hoping to unwind and relax off duty.

After spending 25 years in law enforcement, Pete James is using his experience, love and respect for the profession to make life safer for LEOs. James is the founder of OfficerPrivacy, a service that removes personal information from the top 25 people-search websites, giving LEOs back their personal privacy.

“My whole idea is we’ll take care of this for you. Live your life and relax,” said James, who specializes in digital forensics, information systems security and is a licensed private investigator. “In these roles, I use these sites to do my research. So I know what information is available out there and how to find people.”

What’s the risk to me and my family?

Free sources on the internet can give anybody access to a law enforcement officer’s name, home address, and sometimes email address, phone number, birthday and even the names and information of family members.

“You didn’t ask for your address to be blasted all over the internet, but it’s there, and it’s a risk to you and your family that should be mitigated,” said James. “Anybody can knock on your front door and confront you about their arrest or question why you sent their family member to prison.”

When an officer is involved in a controversial incident, he or she has enough to worry about. Knowing that his or her home address is out there is one more source of stress the officer shouldn’t have to endure.

Can I remove my information from the internet?

Can an officer remove the information themselves? “Yes,” said James, “and you can also give yourself a haircut or represent yourself in court.”

An officer could spend several hours going to each of these 25 sites and completing the process to have their personal data removed. Some of the “opt-outs” are online only, some require a confirmation email and some require drafting an email with specific language. Others require you create an account and add a real cell phone number for verification. After all of that, not all websites remove you the first time you ask.

Then there is the need to monitor. “Just because your information was removed, doesn’t mean it will stay removed. You should be searching often to make certain your info is still private. Life gets in the way and you don’t check for a month or two, or three, and then you’re back on the sites all over again. We monitor for you,” said James.

Can I trust privacy services?

There are other privacy services that promise to remove your data from the internet. Ironically, some of these belong to the same companies putting your information out there in the first place.

OfficerPrivacy is based in the United States and staffed by all former sworn law enforcement who take their jobs very seriously, so privacy is ensured. It takes two to four weeks to remove personal information from people-search websites. Then, OfficerPrivacy monitors the sites in case an officer’s address re-appears. If it does, his or her personal information is removed again.

This increases privacy and helps LEOs feel more secure. “OfficerPrivacy doesn’t hide you from the government, make you invisible or put you in a secret witness protection program,” said James. “The goal is to break the connection between your name and your home address.”

OfficerPrivacy keeps only minimal data about their clients and it is always encrypted. They also don’t identify their clients as officers when “opting out,” thereby keeping your occupation private. No need to expose this fact to people who sell your information.

Safety, security and peace of mind

By removing LEOs from the top 25 people-search sites, officers get their privacy back, feel more secure and can relax when off-duty versus being “on-guard” all the time. Risk is reduced for LEOs and their families from persons with criminal intent searching them out to cause potential harm or harassment or even members of the media persistently pursuing the latest on an investigation.

Within 24 to 48 hours of signing up, LEOs receive a report listing all websites and the status of each opt-out request, noting which are “removed” or “awaiting removal.”

As a privacy service developed by a former LEO for LEOs, law enforcement departments, associations, unions and individuals, officers will be less at risk in an increasingly hostile, digital world and feel safer knowing their personal information has been removed from free access sites on the internet.

OfficerPrivacy is offering a special to PoliceOne members: Click here to receive 50% off the regular price.

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