Why is my partner's ex's name linked to our addresses online?
June 24, 2021 3:12 PM   Subscribe

What could possibly explain why the name of my partner's most recent ex is linked to our current and past addresses on data broker websites?

This is admittedly an odd question. I'm interested in data privacy so every so often I check the contents of Google search results for myself and my partner to ascertain whether our address and phone numbers are publicly posted. When private data is posted, I send requests to websites to get the information removed. This week, I Googled my name and my partner's name and found that when both names appear together, our full address now comes up on multiple data broker websites. In going through the process of getting those listings removed, I noticed a super strange thing: On two data broker sites (e.g. think "Spokeo") the name of my partner's most recent ex also appears as linked to our current address. Clicking on her name, I then noticed that our last address was also linked to her name.. as well as my partner's address before we met. These sites indicate that my partner's ex now lives at her current address (not ours), but shows our past addresses as linked to her name.

Additional information: I've been living with my partner for going on 8 years. In all this time, I've never seen any mail addressed to her ex. Of course, her ex's name does not appear on any lease or mortgage of ours. They were once briefly roommates for a few months like a decade ago, but I don't think they signed a lease together at any time. When I asked my partner what might be going on to explain the search results, she had no idea and also thought it was super weird.

I've asked her to ask her ex for any insights.. but in the meantime, my question is: What in the world could possibly be going on here? How could this person's name possibly become linked to our addresses without being on our lease or mortgage -- and without any of their mail ever being sent to us? I've never seen or heard of anything like this before and I find it very confusing and disconcerting.
posted by Gray Skies to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Who knows how those associations are made… I’ve been divorced for over 10 years and still occasionally get mail addressed to the person my ex was married to before me. I have no idea where she lives now, but she never lived here.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:26 PM on June 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

If the person was in a pinch and ever used your partner's addresses (people shouldn't do this, they do) to apply or qualify for registration online, this is one way.

They may have even done so without the partner knowing, and it'd be easy for the person to shrug it off or say they're not sure while knowing about the submissions.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:32 PM on June 24, 2021

Some system has linked the ex to your partner. I don't think this is about your address but rather your partner.

I just did a search for my name with my ex-husband's name (we've been divorced a few years). A few of the data sites lists as one of my previous addresses a place I've never lived--but it's his current address, a place he moved after the divorce. I recall at some point that he updated his address in some system (like the school system our kids attend), and they accidentally updated mine too. I changed it back, but it shows in these data scraping systems as a place I have lived recently.

This system also thinks we are still married, for whatever that's worth.

I don't think it's worth asking the ex about (honestly, that would be a pretty weird question from someone I hadn't dated for years, but maybe not if we were in regular contact).
posted by bluedaisy at 3:33 PM on June 24, 2021 [10 favorites]

(Okay, it's not my place to say it's not worth asking the ex about. But the ex might not know, either.)
posted by bluedaisy at 3:34 PM on June 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Could be some database thing. I work with (anonymized) data similar to this -- as a client, so I don't have any firsthand knowledge of how the actual data is created/updated -- but I've seen individual records shift household groupings a lot. If your partner's ex has been assigned the same household ID as your partner, the data provider may just be appending your partner's address history to her ex, especially if they don't have have residence information for partner's ex during those times. Just a guess; real answer is that these people databases are extraordinarily messy/slow to update.
posted by ohkay at 3:35 PM on June 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty sure the mechanism for this comes via legitimate change of address forms that are subsequently misinterpreted, with the mistake enshrined in data seemingly forever (e.g. if one person at address A moved to address B, they all must have). At my current address they keep resurfacing somebody who last lived here in 2008, even though the house has been sold twice since then (we bought in 2013). Every now and then I get "welcome to your new home" offers or catalogs addressed to that person, but the worst was when she showed up as connected to me when I was trying to pull my own credit report. The credit bureaux are full of mistakes like this and I have not found it possible to correct the record.
posted by fedward at 3:36 PM on June 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! bluesdaisy: To clarify, they are still in touch regularly but I'm guessing the answer probably lies in some old database or a decision made a decade ago that neither one of them remembers..

Mostly I'm just reassured that this is a thing that can/does happen and not some weird anomaly that requires an explanation.
posted by Gray Skies at 4:00 PM on June 24, 2021

As one tiny anecdote, we recently got two pieces of junk mail for my mom, addressed to her married name (which she hasn't used for decades), at our house halfway across the country. Meanwhile, my mom has gotten junk mail addressed to my stepsister (my dad's second wife's daughter). With the sheer number of data points on all of us out there now, I'm not surprised that weird things like this sometimes happen, even if it's a little disconcerting!
posted by Synesthesia at 4:06 PM on June 24, 2021

My mom gets junk mail at my house where she's never lived, and her address where I've never lived shows up on one of my credit reports bit not the others. The ways of data are mysterious and full of mistakes.
posted by Stacey at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Might be old database. We get mail for someone who was on the property ownership rolls with us two houses and twenty years ago, and someone I shared credit with two houses and twenty years ago.

Searches have me listed as living at my ex sister in laws house (I never lived there)
posted by tilde at 5:02 PM on June 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A roommate I had for two years in college shows up on all kinds of my stuff because we were required to list a ridiculous number of personal contacts (i.e. people who might be able to narc on your whereabouts if your account ever goes into collections) for our student loans one time like 15 years ago. I wrote her name and phone number on one document and she wrote my name and phone number on one document and now we will be linked together until the heat death of the universe.
posted by phunniemee at 6:15 PM on June 24, 2021 [9 favorites]

When I go to quote car insurance, eight years after I left my ex (that I did not get married to), 4 adddresses later, and a marriage to another person, his vehicles still get suggested to me. I don't even know.
posted by joycehealy at 6:28 PM on June 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

My long dead mother shows up living with me in Philadelphia (I don't live in Philadelphia)-- those db searches make big assumptions linking diverse data sets.
posted by frumiousb at 6:29 PM on June 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that’s it^^: the data companies (or rather, their bots) make assumptions about linkages. It’s pretty common to see siblings listed with a married couple, for example.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:02 PM on June 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think these websites are oftentimes just wrong and have no idea why but in my case I suspect it had to do with Facebook.

My long deceased cat is listed as a human who lives with me. It's a longer version of the cat's first name and my last name. (think "Fluffington Jones")

A friend had once "tagged" my cat using this exact name ("Fluffington Jones") as a joke in a Facebook photo with me years ago (when I had a public FB profile, I no longer do). This is the only way the internet knows that my cat existed and is connected to me.
posted by CancerSucks at 11:58 PM on June 24, 2021 [7 favorites]

Most of the data out there is junk. And they have no incentive to clean them up.
posted by kschang at 12:35 AM on June 25, 2021

Adding my voice to the chorus that this happens all over the place.

After we divorced, my ex husband bought a house that I have never seen not set foot in, and likely never will. Color me surprised when I learned that my college alumni association had this as my address, which information I guarantee did not come from me. I have no idea whether any other companies or organizations have made the same mistake since he would never tell me. So it goes.
posted by Sublimity at 5:19 AM on June 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

« Older Back up external Photos.app library to Google...   |   Graduate minor, Coursera certificate, or nothing? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments