In Part 4, we talked about Defending against cyber stalking. At that time, and in most of the other parts of the series, we’ve talked about ways you can minimize the amount and type of your personal information that is available to be acquired by information brokers and others. The techniques we’ve shared and others we could talk about are certainly useful in reducing your exposure. At the end of the day, however, the most effective means of protecting your personal information and, by extension, your privacy and physical and financial security, is by removing your sensitive data from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information on the internet. To that end today’s session is entitled, How to manage the removal of your personal information from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information.
As we mentioned in Part 1, there are literally dozens of information brokers selling personal information on the internet today. Before you begin the step by step approach outlined below to removing your information from these sites, if you’d like to get some idea of how much of your information is available for sale on the internet, visit ManageURiD and click on the Free Search tab for a Free Risk Assessment (takes about a minute). If you find that your information is out there, as you almost certainly will, you can manage its removal by carefully taking the following steps:
Step 1 – Identify all of the sites that are maintaining and selling your personal information. Use the key words referenced in Part 1 in an effort to identify the URLs you will need. Do not relax your efforts with this step until you have identified around 50 sites. The total number of sites varies from time to time as information brokers spin off satellite sites in an effort to differentiate themselves and garner a greater share of the market.
Step 2 – Dig through each of the sites to locate the particular set of instructions for opting out of that site. Each site is different in terms of how readily you will be able to locate the opt out instruction sequence and in how complicated they have made the opt out process. Some sites require only a single step while others will insist on a multiple step process.
Step 3 – Complete each of the required processes, submit the necessary form or forms, and provide the additional information they require to respond to your opt out request – which can include a photo ID.
Step 4 – After you have issued the full set of opt out instructions, revisit each of the sites to confirm they have complied with your request. Some sites will comply immediately. Others may take seven to ten days to react; and, still others can take as long as 30 days or more. Some will even ignore your first request. So, it is vital that you follow up to assure they have complied, and, in some cases, reissue your removal request until they do comply.
Step 5 – More than a step, this is an on-going process. Even after many of these sites have complied with initial your removal instructions, they will repopulate your information over time. Our digital world has made that a virtual inevitability. So, periodically (at least every 30-45days), you should return to Step 1 and repeat the above outlined process.
Unfortunately, protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.