Privacy Tools: Opting Out from Data Brokers
Data brokers hold a huge amount of our information. Many of them sell that information on to marketing companies, which is why it is such a valuable commodity. Some experts say data is the new oil: and even more valuable. And unlike oil, data won’t ever run out.
How Do Data Brokers Get My Information in the First Place?
If you’ve ever wondered now a marketing company got your number so they could pester you with cold calls, well, it could be from any number of places. Each time you add a snippet of personal information to a website, perhaps your address for a parcel delivery or your telephone number so you can register for a competition, it is passed around and added to databases all over the place.
Sometimes, data is helpful. It ensures we see adverts that are relevant to our interests. Unfortunately, however, our personal data is often used to target us in a number of annoying ways. Criminals can even use it to defraud us or steal our identities. But don’t panic as there are ways to sever your ties with data brokers.
Don’t Mistakenly Opt-In for Marketing Communications
Firstly, be very careful not to opt-in for marketing communications via email, mail, or telephone. Companies should make it very clear when you have the option to opt-in or out, but not all of them do. Take your time when filling out forms and look for a tick box that lets you opt-out of mailing lists.
Say “No” to Cold Calls
Register your number on the Federal Do Not Call Registry. This stops marketing companies from cold calling you without your permission.
Put a Stop to the Junk Mail
If unwanted mail is a problem, register on the DMAchoice website. For a $2 fee, your address is protected for 10 years. It allows you to specify what type of mail you want – or don’t want – to receive. The service lets caregivers set mail preferences for anyone in their care. You can also register a deceased person on a ‘do not contact’ list.
Reduce Spam Email
Commercial businesses can register for the email preference service, which is designed to reduce unsolicited commercial email.
The rest of you are advised to create a throwaway email for online shopping and other non-essential activities. Give this to websites rather than your main email. It’s safer than using the same email address for everything.
Check people finder websites to see how much of your personal information is freely available online to anyone searching for you. Many of the more reputable sites will remove your data if requested. Simply fill in a form and a couple of clicks later, your profile is erased.
If you want to take a more thorough approach, try using a data removal service. For a fee, these companies remove your data from a range of data brokers, but remember, it’s not possible to remove your info from every single data broker – there are simply too many of them.
There is a limit to how much data you can block from entering the public domain. Data brokers scrape much of their data from public databases and there is nothing you can do to stop them. But by being aware of what’s out there and actively taking steps to prevent unnecessary information from leaking out, you can minimize your chances of being hacked or cloned.