How to remove personal info on the Internet
All kinds of information about you can be purchased online. Here's how to opt out, if possible, and protect your privacy.
Now that the Facebook privacy firestorm has, for the most part, eased up, people seem to be a little more concerned about Internet privacy. The scary thing is that of all the things that should worry you, Facebook probably has the least amount of information about you.
When it comes to personal information, who your friends are, what your hobbies are, and how many hours you spend on Farmville are the icing on the cake. The cake itself is made up of your actual personal details (name, address, age, Social Security number, e-mail addresses), your purchasing behavior (where you shop, when, and what you buy), your borrowing behavior (loans, credit cards), and other juicy bits.
You can buy a lot of that data from data brokers and marketers. For example, through the Ameridex Information Systems Nationwide Index you can find someone's address and date of birth through a search that requires only a first and last name (it's more accurate if you have date of birth and/or city/state/ZIP code) for $1.95 each. They also have a Death Index that lets you search for death certificates that will return name, Social, DOB, date of death, state of issue and state of death for $1.95. If you have a bunch of SSNs to process, they cost a nickel or less and the results are available online through an Excel file.
And that's just the beginning. I was alerted to this massive list of data brokers by "Bob Smith," who wrote:
Below is a link to a current and extensive list of data brokers, marketers, online directories, along with information on how to opt out of them. It would be interesting to see an article about privacy along with massive amount of data companies have about individuals. I found this list while surfing online and I can say that this is the most extensive and current list of databases and how to opt out of them.
Data brokers. The links below go directly to the removal page, if it exists, or to the terms and conditions where opt-out instructions are included. If you search for "opt," you will usually find details.
- Email Finder
- InfoPay EmailTracer
- Intelius Inc.
- Merlin Information Services
- People Search Pro
- Phone Detective
- USA People Search
- US Search.com
- Westlaw (.pdf file)
- ZABA Inc.
Marketers, direct mail, etc. Many of these companies are in the direct mail marketing business (think: those blue Valpak envelopes). Removing your information may also mean a big reduction in junk mail.
- Abacus Cooperative
- Acxiom Corp.
- Aristotle/voter lists online
- ChoicePoint Precision Marketing
- Cox Target Media (Valpak)
- Dun & Bradstreet Inc.
- Epsilon Data Management LLC
- Haines Criss+Cross
- Infogroup Inc.
- Money Mailer
- Publishers Clearing House
- Reader's Digest
- Suarez Corporation Industries
- Valassis Communications Inc.
People directories. The sites on this list are those 411/People Search type of directories where you can look someone up. In most cases, you will need to do a search on yourself and find your result. Then, look for a "Is this you? Remove your listing" link and click that for further details.
- DA Plus
- Fone Cart
- Google Phonebook
- People Finder
- WhitePages Inc.
Social networks and data aggregators. These are sites that search social networks and other sources and aggregate that information in one place.
- Spokeo Inc.
- Wink Technologies Inc.
- Zoom Information Inc.
General marketing opt-outs. These are the more well-known online, offline, and telephone opt-out mechanisms.
- National Do Not Call Registry
- Catalog Choice
- Opt Out Services LLC
- Network Advertising Initiative
- Google's DoubleClick
- Microsoft Advertising
Some of the places require you to fax in a written request. For that, I recommend these free online fax resources.
I've checked all the links and confirm that they are pointed to the right page. If that should change in the future, let me know and I'll fix the links. Thanks.
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