How to Remove Yourself from Data Broker Sites
Every time we surf the web, we inevitably give up some of our privacy. What many may not know is how valuable their data can be, and how it contributes to the multi-billion dollar data broker industry in the US.
If you’re wondering how to remove yourself from data broker sites but don’t know where to start, this guide offers an introduction.
With thousands of data brokers in the US processing and selling consumer data, removing your information from data brokers process is not straightforward. Some data brokers will walk you through removing your file from their servers, while others may make you jump through complicated hoops. In some cases, you may be required to take additional steps to confirm your identity, such as providing your email address or accepting a phone call, which can feel counterintuitive to your privacy efforts.
Many consumers rely on data broker removal sites to help tackle this initiative in bulk. Data broker removal sites often charge a fee for their services, but some may find the price well worth it—removing your data from brokers one by one can become extremely time-consuming. In this guide, we aim to help you understand the magnitude of the data broker industry and why removing yourself from data broker sites is not always easy, but certainly possible. We cover the following topics:
- What is a data broker site
- How to protect yourself from data brokers
- How to remove info from data brokers
- The best data broker removal services
- How to block data brokers
- Virtual cards: keep your personal information private when shopping online
What is a data broker site
A data broker site acquires consumer information from various sources, processes it, and then sells it to firms or individuals. Data brokers may collect names, addresses, phone numbers, and other demographic information as well as interests, purchase histories, and other lifestyle-related data points.
Data brokers rely on a variety of sources, both online and offline, to aggregate your information. For example, they may collect information from public records, credit card companies, social media, and mobile apps. In fact, mobile applications are notorious for collecting user location data and selling them to advertisers, retail outlets, and even hedge funds.
Often, these pieces of information are used to create consumer profiles and form user segments to help marketers better understand consumer behavior and, in some cases, supplement targeted marketing campaigns. However, consumer data is applicable far beyond marketing pursuits. There is a massive market for data as it relates to fraud prevention, risk mitigation, and people search purposes.
As your digital footprint grows, your sensitive personal data becomes at greater risk of becoming compromised. Plus, data brokers can sell your identity without your knowledge or consent, which can be a huge privacy concern.
It may be challenging to thwart data brokers and privacy intrusions entirely, but there are steps you can take to protect your sensitive data.
How to protect yourself from data brokers
The easiest way to protect yourself from data brokers is to tighten your network and adopt a privacy-conscious mindset while browsing the web. You should also familiarize yourself with federal and state laws that support your data privacy.
However, with years of signing up for various services, it can be close to impossible to keep track of which companies have stored your data and for what reason. In most cases, the responsibility lies with the individual to determine where their data is stored and to take the necessary action to have it deleted.
But what about your rights to privacy? Unlike the EU, which operates under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the data broker industry operates primarily unregulated on a federal level in the US. In fact, a 2021 Surfshark analysis concluded that the US is the world’s most breached country!
Despite the lack of federal support, some US states, such as Vermont and California, have opted to take consumer privacy rights into their own hands. For example, according to laws in both states, data brokers must register their business with the state. Additionally, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was enacted in 2018, grants consumers the right to request disclosure of which data was collected and the right to have that data deleted upon request. CCPA covers not only data brokers but any business that operates in California and stores sensitive information.
Requesting data removal can be incredibly cumbersome and may even require a cost. In the next sections, we discuss the best options for removing yourself from data broker sites.
How to remove info from data brokers
Removing your information from a data broker involves identifying the institution storing your data and following their protocols for deleting that information. There are also several services that, for a fee, will help you remove your information in bulk from brokers’ databases.
We suggest that if at any point during the data broker opt out process you are asked to enter your email address or phone number, you consider using disposable contact information. Many services exist to help consumers generate a one-time phone number or a temporary email address.
Who are the largest data brokers in the US?
Some of the largest data brokers in the US include Acxiom, Epsilon, Oracle, Equifax, Experian, and CoreLogic. Each broker has their own pool of clients, operations, and business models. For example, Equifax aggregates consumer data to provide fraud prevention and solutions, financial marketing services, consumer credit monitoring, and more.
In general, opting out of one of these larger data broker sites requires the following steps:
- Navigate to the data broker’s opt out form.
- Enter your personal information so that the broker can locate your record.
- Specify which piece(s) of your data you would like to remove and/or how you would prefer to manage that data (opt out, opt in, limit use, etc.)
- Confirm your request. You may be asked to wait for your request to be processed.
Depending on the company, you may or may not receive confirmation that this data broker opt out process has been completed, but you can navigate back to the respective site at any time to check the status of and update your preferences related to managing your personal data.
People search sites
Another type of data broker is people search sites, such as BeenVerified, Spokeo, and Whitepages. People search sites make personally identifiable information (PII) readily available to the public, either for free or for a cost. Such readily available data can promote spam, robocalls, and scam texts.
In more severe cases, people search sites may be misused for dangerous criminal intent, such as doxxing.
How to delete your information from people search sites
The steps for opting out of a people search site also varies across platforms. You can typically expect a process similar to the one below:
- Navigate to the site’s people search function.
- Conduct a search to locate your profile.
- Locate the data broker’s opt out form.
- Paste the link from your profile plus any additional identifying information requested into the form.
- Follow the prompts on screen to confirm your request. You will typically receive confirmation once your request has been completed.
You should do a search for each data broker’s opt out form to begin the process and follow their specific procedures.
The best data broker removal services
Opting out from data brokers can be time-consuming and isn’t always straightforward. If you’re wondering how to remove yourself from data broker sites without the hassle of going through each broker one by one, you may want to consider a data broker removal service. These services are designed to help users purge their data as efficiently as possible.
PrivacyBee is a comprehensive data security company that will proactively remove your information from data brokers. The service leverages preventative measures like around-the-clock privacy monitoring in addition to data broker removal and containment.
- PrivacyBee’s privacy protection plan, which includes data broker removal, costs $197 per year. Visit PrivacyBee’s pricing page for more information.
DeleteMe is another popular choice when it comes to data broker opt out and removal services. The service primarily works to remove consumer information from data brokers and Google searches.
- DeleteMe has various pricing plans available for its data broker removal service. Their plans start at $129 per year, with discounts for adding additional users. Visit DeleteMe’s pricing page for more information.
Data broker removal initiatives aren’t always a one-step fix. Even when you’re careful, your data can become compromised and wind up back in the hands of broker databases. Services like PrivacyBee and DeleteMe offer ongoing protection to keep data broker removal as hands-off as possible for consumers.
How to block data brokers
In addition to removing your information from data broker sites, you can take measures to block them from collecting your data in the first place. Installing a VPN, downloading a privacy-focused web browser, and adjusting your browser settings are good places to start.
Here are some tips for blocking data collection while browsing the web:
Use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP address.
A VPN is a service that provides a layer of protection between you and vulnerable Wi-Fi networks, internet service providers (ISPs), the sites and apps you browse, and other parties that enable your experience but may lack adequate security.
Opt for a privacy-focused browser like DuckDuckGo or Brave.
Both browsers block third-party tracking and do not share or store personal data by default.
Install browser add-ons and extensions to block trackers and other unwanted content.
If you don’t want to switch browsers entirely, you can use extensions such as those offered by Privacy Badger, DuckDuckGo, Privacy Essentials, or Ghostery to protect you.
Use private browsing mode and disable third-party cookies.
Cookies may promote a quicker browsing experience but they track and store your browser information, which can be risky.
Use a secure search engine such as DuckDuckGo, Startpage, or Qwant.
Popular search engines may store, track, or even sell your information, including but not limited to your location and search data. Privacy-focused search engines typically don’t log user activity and include the infrastructure to block web tracking.
Use Do Not Track (DNT) requests in your browser.
A DNT will signal to the websites you visit that you don’t want their tracking cookies. However, a caveat is that the sites you visit can choose to ignore your requests.
Regularly clear your browsing history and cache.
Your history stores information about the sites you’ve visited, the files you’ve downloaded, and active login sessions.
Use Privacy Virtual Cards to shop anonymously online.
Some merchants sell or use their customer’s data for other purposes. Generating an instant card number adds a layer of protection between you and the merchant.
Virtual cards: keep your personal information private when shopping online
As the payments ecosystem moves away from cash and toward contactless solutions, consumers have less anonymity when completing transactions. Shopping instead with virtual credit card and virtual debit card numbers–sometimes called “masked cards” or “anonymous cards”–can help shield your financial and personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
With Privacy’s virtual card solution, you can enjoy cashless payments while preserving a greater degree of privacy than with a physical credit card or debit card. You can create secure, randomly generated instant card numbers that mask your real card payment information and give you greater control over the personal information retailers obtain during checkout. Plus, with security features like customizable per-card spending limits, Privacy Virtual Cards can be leveraged to manage subscriptions, track expenses, and set budgets.
By using Privacy to generate a random virtual card number during checkout, you can prevent your real card number and other private information from reaching a merchant who may store or fail to protect your data. And since Privacy virtual cards lock to the first merchant they’re used with, a breach at one merchant won’t result in fraudulent charges elsewhere.
It’s important to note that Privacy will never share your underlying information with a merchant and does not sell your data to data brokers or other third parties. The security of your data is our top priority.
Everyday activities like making purchases, browsing the web, or downloading apps can put your PII, credit card numbers, location, and other sensitive data points at risk of exposure. According to cybersecurity firm Bitdefender, 60% of internet users have more than twelve data points exposed somewhere online. Alarming statistics like this remind us that it's crucial to secure our personal and financial data in every way that we can. Taking steps like shopping with virtual credit cards, opting out of data brokers, and taking proactive steps to block personal information from being collected online can help you achieve an optimal level of personal data security.
Looking for more ways to keep your personal and financial information secure while shopping online? Take control with Privacy Virtual Cards.