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Removing Your Name From Data Brokers

Preview:Evil data broker

Well over a hundred data brokers collect and sell all sorts of information about you. 12 of them were hacked and lost their files on me. Here's how to remove your name from many of them and what to expect.

Last month I mentioned that 12 different companies, I never knew existed, had somehow purchased information about me and lost it. For example, Exactis lost my account. They describe themselves as a: "compiler and aggregator of premium business & consumer data", which they sell. So, they had collected information about me, which was lost when their database was breached. All without my knowledge or consent.

The information they collected then lost included: Credit status information, date of birth, education level, email addresses, ethnicities, family structure, financial investments, genders, home ownership statuses, income levels, IP addresses, marital statuses, names, net worths, occupations, personal interests, phone numbers, physical addresses, religions, spoken languages. They might not have had all that information on me, but that's what they collect and sell. On the other hand, other companies collect less information, so when they lost it, less was lost.

The European Union and some other countries have strict laws requiring a removal process, as does California. Neither the United States nor Oregon does. So, all we need to do is move to the European Union, then figure out which of the 200 or so data brokers has our information and follow whatever procedure each has for removal.

There Is a Better Way

Some companies have automated the process. They've figured out the process for a couple hundred data brokers and submit the requests for you. They follow up and normally will have a human intervene if their automated process doesn't produce results. I began investigating this last March. I contacted a company called Optery and signed up for their free plan. This plan lets you check to see how many data brokers have your data, but you have to pay to have it removed. It also shows a little of the data they have. One hundred and thirteen data brokers had my data. Some of them had very old or incorrect data.

The various companies submit your requests and follow-up at regular intervals. They need to follow up because though a data broker removes your name, that data broker can buy it again. Removal is removal only, not a prevention from buying it again. I will only show annual pricing for easier comparison. Optery is well reviewed and offers the cheapest plan. They will submit your requests for removal to 80 brokers but only automated submittal. This plan is $47.88/year. For $179.88 they submit to 150+ sites, have humans follow up on problems and resubmit every 90 days. For 299.88 they submit to over 240 sites. This seemed expensive to me.

You'll Need to Provide Some Data

To know who you are and provided data brokers with enough information so they know who to remove, you'll have to provide some information to the removal service. Choose one you can trust. After I started the process, I received forms from Incogni and the data brokers. About 20 companies came back with some Steven Shanks in Oregon that were in their database. I had to choose which was me so they could remove the correct one.

My Choice

I chose Incogni. It gets good reviews. SurfShark, a respected security company, owns Incogni. They recently merged with Nord Security and employ over 300 people. It is based in the Netherlands.

Their service is $77.78 annually. They don't submit requests to all possible sites, but rather to those they think could have your data. After 3 months, they had sent out 117 requests, 62 were completed and confirmed they didn't have my data. Fifty-one requests weren't completed after 90 days but were theoretically in process. Those of you who are mathematically gifted may notice that 117 requests were sent out, but only 113 either responded or are in process. During this 90 days, they removed 4 brokers from their system, either because they went out of business or won't respond to requests for removal.

Incogni told me that about 60% of the data brokers they submit requests to actually have data on their client. From this, we can assume that the 62 completed requests were divided by about 36 who had data and removed it and 26 who didn't have any in the first place. They claim that only about 5% of brokers refuse to remove data and are in jurisdictions where they don't have to remove our data. They remove those from their list.

From looking at their results, after over 90 days, I guess 36 brokers removed my information and expect another 14 or more to comply in time. So, I think my $77.78 probably gets me 50 actual removals and follow-up for a year. Incogni resubmits on 30-day or 90-day schedules depending on the type of brokers.

This should help reduce spam and possible identity theft and unsolicited phone calls. I expect another 50 brokers still have my data and are unaffected.

Another Option

Deleteme is well reviewed and one of my subscribers is using it and happy. The annual price is $129 but there are small discounts for 2 users and 2 users 2 years. I have no real way to compare them with Incogni. Both companies seem to be responsive to support requests.

Further Reading

Date: July 2023

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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