People-search engines are search sites where you punch in a name and the engine goes out and digs up all the known information available about the person you’re searching for. A few of the more popular examples are Spokeo, Pipl and 123people.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the information presented on a people-search engine is verified. What this means is that someone could easily fabricate an online persona using their real name, then fill in everything else as false (different state, job, etc.) and the people-search engines will still take that as ‘fact’.
Just for grins I tried a few searches using these engines. As I suspected, the information was really old and/or inaccurate.
Why aren’t people-search engines any good anymore?
The masses were made very aware of online privacy a few years back (read: Facebook), and many people started exerting much better control over what personal information goes out to the public internet. As such, the people-search engines simply don’t have as much to index as they used to; the end result is old out-of-date information.
These days if you want information on a specific individual, Facebook is your best bet – assuming the person has a public or semi-public profile.