One of the most important and valuable services we provide at the Self-Reliance Institute is to alert our members to services and methods you can use to protect your privacy and security from criminals who use the Internet to hunt victims.
As a private detective, I investigated two murder cases where the killer used the Internet to stalk and kill his victim. As one of the nation’s leading experts on identity theft, I can say with certainty that the Internet has led to an epidemic of identity crimes around the globe.
And while I know I can’t keep everyone safe from deranged stalkers, killers and identity thieves, I’ve dedicated myself to educating as many people as possible about the dangers that lurk on the Internet.
While the age, sex, occupation, and location of the two victims in the Internet murders I investigated were vastly different, the common denominator was the use of information maintained by data brokers by the killers to locate and kill the victims.
For that reason, I’m always hypersensitive to what information is being gathered by data brokers and who is able to access that information.
Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to prevent any of our personal information from ending up in commercial and government databases. To pretend otherwise is just foolish.
But, that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t take every step possible to keep as much of our personal information out of databases as possible. And, whenever possible, it’s important to learn what aspects of our lives are available to prying eyes and then determine if we can eradicate that information from the database where it is contained.
This week, I ran across an excellent article by Julia Angwin at the investigative journalism publication Pro Publica that provides a good overview of the difficulty in regaining control of our personal information from data brokers. More important, the article includes a comprehensive list of data brokers and instructions on how to check or remove your information where possible.
The article is Privacy Tools: Opting Out from Data Brokers.
Angwin, in discussing the challenges posed by data brokers, notes:
“I sought to obtain the data that brokers held about me. At first, I was excited to be reminded of the address of my dorm room and my old phone numbers. But thrill quickly wore off as the reports rolled in. I was equally irked by the reports that were wrong — data brokers who thought I was a single mother with no education — as I was by the ones that were correct — is it necessary for someone to track that I recently bought underwear online? So I decided to opt out from the commercial data brokers.
“It wasn’t easy. There is no law requiring data brokers to offer opt-outs. Of the 212 data brokers that I managed to identify, less than half — 92 — accepted opt-outs. Of those, a majority — 65 — required me to submit some form of identification, such as a driver’s license to opt out. Twenty-four sites required the opt-out forms to be sent by mail or fax. In some cases, I decided not to opt-out because the service seemed so sketchy that I didn’t want to send in any additional information.
“Still, I achieved some minor successes: A search for my name on some of the largest people-search websites, such as Intelius and Spokeo, yields no relevant results.”
Angwin then provides two spreadsheets she created “with the names of companies that track your information, links to their privacy pages, and instructions on how to opt out, in the cases where they offered them.”
To read the entire article and use Angwin’s spreadsheets as a guide to removing your information from as many databases as possible, click –> HERE.
Again, I must be honest and tell you that currently there is no way to completely remove your information from all government and commercial databases. And currently there is no way to prevent that information from being misused, transferred or sold.
But, I can personally attest to the fact that if you are vigilant and remove your personal information whenever and wherever possible, you will greatly reduce the amount of your information that can fall into the wrong hands.
Now I have a question for you. And, as I’ve testified before Congress and advised federal and state agencies on privacy and security issues, I’d really love to get your response.
Should the companies and government agencies that have your personal information in their databases have to obtain your permission before sharing or selling it to anyone else?
Please tell me by emailing me at [email protected]
Also, as you use Angwin’s spreadsheets, I’d like to hear about your experience. Anything you tell me will be kept confidential.
Be safe and secure,