NEW YORK - In this day and age of digital information, it seems that everybody knows everybody’s business. From names to addresses, opinions to facts, your personal information is ubiquitous on the World Wide Web, and if you wish to reclaim some degree of anonymity, it might just be a little harder than you think.
Even wonder how so much spam mail ends up in your mailbox, email inbox, or voicemail? It’s mainly because so much of your information is out there and easily found by all manner of companies large and small; that information, collected in vast databases, is a valuable source of income to them, whether you personally have any sort of business relationship with them or not. Many of these sites are mere front ends representing data brokers that don’t offer any kind of search features that are available to the public; instead, they use the information they have to track the personal data of millions, so when it comes to dealing with the numerous White Pages and social media sites out there, it’s best to deal with out the reputable ones and remember- always read the fine print.
And, much like a virus, your personal information can start in one place and, through no action on your part, spread to another, and another, so it’s probably in your best interests to be very careful where and when you enter your name, date of birth, address, and any other data that could be used to create any sort of mailing list for corporate America. Likewise, your personal information can even get out there without your even knowing about it, such as when you agree to a terms of service when using public wi-fi connections or if your wife or husband enters information into a online shopping site or other service, unbeknownst to you. Nowadays – in the age of rampant identity theft – being careful with your info isn’t just important- it’s vital.
Most white pages, and other similar types of websites, have opt-out procedures for customers to follow if they want their information removed from their services, but it’s vital to always read the fine print when doing so, as these companies will not always relinquish your info without a fight. It’s not impossible, but it does often take a lot of work and you need to be thorough.
For example some services, such as WhitePages.com, offer basic info on people such as names, addresses, and phone numbers; however, behind a paywall, lies even juicer tidbits about the public, such as criminal and arrest history, email addresses, and more. Contacting them will result in your removal from their basic, publically accessible services, but you will remain listed in their members-only section, as these files are often made up of publically-available sources. Spokeo.com, on the other hand, will not respond to any removal requests by an individual; their argument being that their profiles are all based solely on – once again – public sources, and therefore, if you want your information removed from their service, you need to track down those sources and deal with them first. It’s literally a scavenger hunt to free your identity from some websites, but with enough patience and perseverance, you can do it. However, it’s possible that there will be some information that you many never be able to reclaim…such is life in the digital age.
More reputable sites – such as YellowPagesGoesGreen, for example – will not only not collect your date for use by third-party companies, but will also offer a clean and easy opt-out procedure that ensures that your data will be properly utilized and not victimized.
In this age of the internet, people’s lives are laid bare more so then ever before, and the majority of the public aren’t even aware of it. For those actually in the know, you can actually curb the flow of your personal data and prevent it from reaching the wrong hands, but it requires you to almost live off the grid to do so; such a feat is nearly impossible in the modern day, but it can be accomplished – at least, in part – if you abstain from al social media sites, public internet usage, and the like. The point is to head off the wanton spread of your data before it ever happens, because after years of unmitigated of web use, that grows much harder to achieve. Case in point, as reported by the Huffington Post:
“In 2014, the journalist Julia Angwin tried to remove her information from the databases of every data broker and people-search engine she could find,” they said. “Of the 212 brokers she came across, fewer than half allowed her to opt out at all, and most of those required her to submit identification, like a driver’s license. Twenty-four of the brokers required opt-outs to be mailed or faxed in.”
So, there you have it. When it comes to the internet and your personal data, you’re either all in, or all out. There are things you can do to reduce your digital footprint, so to speak, but be prepared for an everyday, uphill battle to do so.