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Find anybody anywhere with these eerily good people search engines

Google People Search
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Finding people online is easier now than it ever has been – everybody’s personally identifiable information is absolutely everywhere now, and with just a few minutes of research (and sometimes a small fee), you can get detailed personal data on practically anyone you want. There are a number of different methods for getting this information, but one of the easiest and most effective places to start is with this list of the best people search websites.

Googlegoogle search results for brandon widder query

Who would’ve guessed it, right? It should come as no surprise that the best search engine in the world is also rather handy for looking up info on people. The only problem is that it’s not focused on people in particular, so it almost always retrieves plenty of irrelevant information that you don’t need. However, this isn’t always a bad thing. Hidden among all that worthless info, Google will sometimes pull up obscure, useful details that you you wouldn’t have uncovered elsewhere. For this reason, the Goog is always a good place to start.

Before you dive right in though, you should be sure you know how to swim in Google’s pool. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and pinpoint good information much quicker if you know how to use search operators. For example, let’s say you’re looking for a dude named Don Johnson. Not only are there hundreds of Don Johnsons across the country, but one of them happens to be quite famous – so he dominates the search results. To mitigate this problem, you’ll need to make use of the – (minus) operator. Place the minus symbol in front of your query to exclude results related to a certain keyword. In this situation, you could search for [Don Johnson -actor -celebrity] and it would remove all results related to Don Johnson the actor/celebrity. 

Google has dozens of these handy operators – way more than we have space to mention here – so we highly suggest you check out our guide to mastering Google search

PiplScreen Shot 2013-08-05 at 2.13.39 PM

launched in 2006, Pipl has steadily been growing more powerful over the years, and today its easily one of the best people finding resources out there. It’s a bit different than your average lookup service. Unlike a typical search-engine, Pipl is designed to retrieve information from the Deep Web – the massive section of the Internet that traditional Web-crawlers like Google and Yahoo don’t index. To do this, it uses custom Web-crawling robots that are designed to interact with searchable databases, effectively extending its reach into a zone that Google can’t see. With this advanced search ability, Pipl’s engine can extract facts, contact details, and other relevant information from things like personal profiles, member directories, scientific publications, court records, and numerous other Deep Web sources.

To be fair, Pipl isn’t the only site that does this. Most people finder sites use some kind of proprietary Deep Web crawling algorithm – Pipl’s is just one of the better ones out there. What makes it really stand out from the competition is its unique “identity resolution” engine. You see, the problem with searching for people on the Web is that even when you’ve got a specific name, engines tend to retrieve WAY more information than you can easily sift through. Pipl mitigates this problem by clustering results belonging to a single person into a simple, easy to read profile, and also suggests items that might be related to that specific individual. Add this feature to a simple, well-organized interface, and you’ve got one of the best people finder resources on the Web.  

123peopleScreen Shot 2013-08-05 at 2.13.04 PM

As per usual with these kinds of sites, 123people makes use of a proprietary search algorithm to trawl the Deep Web and spit out relevant information like public records, phone numbers, addresses, images, videos, Web content, and email addresses. Based on our experience with it, the site’s robots can’t crawl quite as deep as Pipl’s can, but the site does a pretty damn decent job of returning useful information and presenting it in an easy-to digest format. The sites layout makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, but does come with a heaping helping of sponsored ads. You get a good bit of information free of charge, but if you want anything deeper, you’ll probably have to fork over a buck or two. 


Much like the sites mentioned above, Spokeo uses custom Web crawling robots to delve into the Deep Web and find information on people. It pulls people-related information from phone books, social networks, marketing lists, business sites, and other public sources, so in terms of finding information it’s not much different than Pipl or 123people. It does, however, seem to be better for tracking down people’s geographic locations. It won’t spit out the full address until you pay for a subscription, but the default view displays the person in question on a map, so at a glance you can get a pretty good idea of where they sleep at night (you creep). Most of the good information on the site is hidden behind a pay wall, but for a modest $1.95 fee, you can get your hands on pretty much any info you need here. It’s also worth noting that, oftentimes, results listed on Pipl and 123people will link over to Spokeo, so you’ll probably end up using it at some point in your search.

Know of any good people search techniques/resources that we didn’t mention? Share them with us in the comments!

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Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
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