Your personal information is being collected automatically
“Big Data” brokers make a handsome profit by compiling your info and selling it to others. Through this process, your information has become an invaluable resource for retailers, advertising firms, marketing databases—and unfortunately also for identity thieves, stalkers, and other unsavory characters.
That said, there is a lot you can do to protect your online privacy, and ReputationDefender also offers tools to automate and maximize that protection.
Online privacy primer
How does personal information get online?
There’s no single source, and a lot of your personal information gets online without you doing anything. For instance, a lot of public records have been digitized. If you’ve ever bought real estate, donated to a political campaign, or had a run-in with the law, that information is likely available online. If you’ve ever used a grocery store discount card, chances are your purchase information is also part of some online consumer marketing database.
In addition, when you surf the Web, you leave a trail of personal information behind you. The links that you click on and the sites you visit record information about you. Many sites track your complete browser history: the total list of all the sites you’ve visited since you last cleared your cache (most people never clear their browser cache). Social media sites also collect detailed information about how you interact with their services and what kind of links you click on.
What exactly is out there?
At a minimum, data brokers will usually have:
- Home addresses
- Landline phone numbers
- Cell phone numbers
- Job information
- Relatives’ names
- Past addresses
On more sophisticated sites, you’ll find even more:
- Home values and photographs
- Email addresses
- Marriage and divorce records
- Photos and videos
- Social media profiles
- Dating site profiles
- Religious information
- Projected annual income
9 million Americans’ identities are stolen each year.
Online Privacy: Essential First Steps
Review social media privacy settings. If you haven’t checked your privacy settings in awhile, do so now. Social media sites change their privacy policies all the time, and you may not be as protected as you thought you were.
Limit past posts on Facebook. Facebook has a feature called the Activity Log where you can review past posts and tags. From the Activity Log, you can click on “Limit Past Posts” to retroactively prevent posts from the past from showing up.
Be wary of questionnaires. When you’re asked to fill out a loyalty club form in a store or provide your ZIP code at checkout, provide the minimum information possible. Every time you offer up a piece of personal information, it will likely end up in an online database.
Find out and opt out. ReputationDefender provides a free tool to help you locate your information online. Once you’ve found a source, check their policies to see if there’s a way to opt out of the service. Most data brokers will allow you to remove your information, although you may need to submit a form or provide proof of your identity.
Enable “Do Not Track” on your browser. There are a number of built-in and third-party “do not track” add-ons for the most popular Web browsers. Install and enable them. While they don’t provide perfect protection, they do prevent a lot of personal information from being sent out from your computer or phone.
Check regularly. Even if you’ve opted out of every online data broker, your personal information could still end up online. Whenever a new variation on your information appears in their databases, they may re-add you. For instance, if they see “J. Doe” instead of “John Doe”, or a different format for your home address, you may need to start the entire process over again.
Automate the process. It can be tedious to keep on top of your online privacy. That’s why ReputationDefender offers a suite ofprivacy protection tools, from fully automatic to white-glove service. Contact us to find out more.