Tracking people used to be CSI-level complicated. If you wanted to trace a prankster, find a lost connection, or establish the credibility of a source, hiring a detective was a go-to idea. Now, that everyone leaves traces online, following them and finding all the personal information on any person is not as challenging.
If you are wondering if people tracking is legal, what tools you can use to find anyone’s name, phone, or social media history, in the post, you’ll get to know six tried-and-true ways to find anyone legally.
Why Track People Online?
Speaking of ‘tracking’ someone, we don’t mean stalking. There are multiple legal reasons why organizations, businesses, or individuals would want to trace someone’s online history. Here’s why people usually use online tracking:
- Vetting job candidates and checking for identity frauds. Employee screenings are a standard procedure, legal and approved of by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. As an employer, you have the right to check the candidate’s financial, criminal, and tax records.
- Background-checking sources for journalists. When possible, media professionals prefer to run an online background check to confirm the identity and the credibility of their sources. The ID verification, social media history, previous publications, and other relevant data are included in the background check.
- Family safety. Tracking your spouse’s or children’s online activity is common these days, as a way to ensure your loved ones steer clear from trouble. In case there are people with mental disparities in your family, using tracking apps and tools is a reasonable thing to do.
- Reaching out to business connections. If you have a lead but limited information to reach out and keep working on the deal, use tracking tools to search people - social media profile, email, or phone number.
- Finding out who is tracking you. Finally, if you’re getting random phone calls or emails that make you uneasy, knowing who is behind them will clear your mind.
Is Tracking People Online Legal?
People tracking is a sensitive matter. Now that more people are worried about privacy than ever, the government has to take action. Security and accountability offices tighten the grip on people tracking legislation.
In case you’re losing track of what’s legal and what’s not anymore, let’s clear things up by analyzing if the most popular types of online tracking are legal.
The major privacy laws in the US are the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Cell Phone Privacy and Third Party Doctrine.
According to the Federal Law, recording the conversations of an adult is legal only under consent, unless you have a warrant from the law reinforcement agency. Usually, businesses get legal permission to monitor conversations by opening them with a message: ‘This conversation is recorded for quality assurance purposes’.
If a family member is tracking a child’s phone, it’s not necessary to get consent from the kid.
Location-tracking your spouse, kids, or employees is common these days. If the company manager wants to track how the employee is using a company-owned device, he is in full right to do so, with or without permission.
Tracking vehicles without an owner’s permission is explicitly illegal is some states - California, Virginia, Texas, Tennesee, and Minnesota - while others don’t have a specified stand on the matter.
To people find a family member, you generally need verbal consent. However, you are free to track the activity of a car both of you own with no consent.
Most laws, GDPR aside, don’t classify the IP address as personal data. There’s a limited amount of information you can get from knowing someone’s IP - that’s why tracing the location of the device using the address is not formally considered illegal.
Email tracking is not regulated by the U.S. Federal Law. Most states don’t have a legislative framework to monitor it - although New York, Illinois, and Pensylvania have published privacy regulations in 2017 and 2018.
For EU countries, email tracking privacy is regulated by GDPR. The regulation states that you need the owner’s permission to track his inbox - else, it’s considered illegal.
Top 6 Ways to Legally Track Anyone Online
Googling someone is a basic way to find people by name. There are more tools for people tracking that help find everything you need on anyone in a few clicks. Here are the simple yet working ways to track people online.
1. Get the most out of Google
Entering the first and the last name of the person will not be efficient unless you’re looking for a celebrity. However, everyone has left their name somewhere - thus, you can find those traces.
To improve the precision and efficiency of your queries, follow these simple tips:
- Put the person’s name in quotes to eliminate all irrelevant search results;
- Use other relevant words to describe a person - profession, age, location, and so on;
- Use site:URL to find all entries about someone on a school or college website (e.g., site:harvard.edu “Alex Thomson”).
2. Image scanning and search tools
Deep learning helped data scientists create countless algorithms for scanning images, recognizing faces, and loading up the records that match a person on the photo.
Technologies like ‘Deep Sort Algorithm’ help assign identities to people in pictures or videos, determine the time the shot was taken, and establish the location by analyzing the background of the frame.
With the growing popularity of social media, image scanners can offer more information about a person than data records.
3. Deep web search engines
Surfing the deep web on your own can be dangerous - you might infect your device with malware or attract the attention of law reinforcement organs. The good news is, there are dozens of tools that allow finding people looking up beyond the public layer of the Internet.
Here are a few real people search engines you can check out:
- Internet Archive Wayback Machine;
4. Death notices to track people who passed away
If you have no idea if a person you’re tracking is still alive, checking death notices just in case will not hurt. The official procedure for accessing such data is by contacting a state vital records department. There are faster and more convenient ways to track death notices as well - such as the following ones:
- Searching websites like vitalrec.com or the WorldVitalRecords;
- Use the Social Security Death Index database;
- Check the website of the National Archives.
5. Free federal databases
The US government conducts citizen surveillance and publishes a part of its records publicly. Accessing free federal databases is a way to make sure you’re tracking people legally. The downside of the method is that the stored data is generic - a person’s name, birth date, and place of residence. To access more advanced records, you will have to know the SSL of the one you’re tracking.
6. People search engines
Person search engines are a common way to connect with old friends from college, background-check a prospective roommate, or strengthen a business connection. You can use the platforms to see all the information you can find on yourself.
Here’s what you’ll be able to find by running a person through a people search engine:
- Social media history;
- Phone number;
- Property information;
- Family records;
Tools like Everyjoe.com can run a reversed search as well - type in an email or an address in a find people search engine. It takes a few seconds to run the engine - once the search is over, you’ll get a social media history, online activity, and a personal profile of a job candidate, a roommate-to-be, or a family member. USA People search engines are legal and free.
If you still have questions about people tracking, here are the answers to the most popular queries on the web.
Q: How can you run a free person search?
A: You can use online tools for IP, GPS, phone, or email tracking. Running people search engines and social media investigations are other decent ways of getting more data on anyone.
Q: How can I track a phone number without them knowing?
A: Use public tools like Find My Device or Find My iPhone in case you have access to a person’s Google or iCloud account. There are third-party tools that can track the location of any smartphone.
Q: How do you track someone on Google Maps?
A: Download and open the Google Latitude app on another person’s phone. The tool will allow you to track the location of a friend or a family member anytime.
Q: How can I find people for free?
A: Use people search engines to find personal data, the address, and the list of anyone’s social media profiles.
Q: What is the best search engine to find a person?
A: A specialized people search engine like everyjoe.com is the way to get a fast people search, with a detailed personal data profile on a friend or a family member.
Q: Is it illegal to track someone without their consent?
A: Yes, tracking people without their consent is illegal in most states, unless they use the vehicle you own or are underage.
Q: Can you spy on a cell phone with only the IMEI number?
A: While there are third-party tools that claim to support IMEI tracking, the rule of thumb is that you can’t use the smartphone’s IMEI number for people tracking.
Q: Can I track my spouse’s phone?
A: Yes, you can use your spouse’s GPS to track the smartphone’s location.
Final thoughts about people lookup
Even if you can’t physically track someone’s whereabouts or lay your hands on hard personal data, the digital footprint we leave on social media and other websites can be just as telling.
The development of data mining and image recognition gives us access to almost any data a person is sharing online. Using people lookup engines, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to track someone on a hacker’s level of efficiency.
Good luck in finding or maintaining lost connections. Remember that stalking and personal data intrusion are illegal and considered a criminal offense by the majority of privacy laws.