MyLife pulls out so much public data to create background reports and “reputation scores” on millions of people in the US, all of which are available to those willing to pay for a monthly membership. On top of that, I found sometimes inaccurate but strange personal information about my life: my birthday and home city; My previous job title (interestingly not my current one); A list of people who “maintains Seth’s relationships”, including my parents’ names, each connected to their own profile pages with even more data. Waiting to find it all there.
When I called the site, the customer service representative insisted the information was not from MyLife, but from “Interwebs”. Some back and forth, the representative agreed to delete my profile page. I was successful – two hours later when I received a lot of promotional emails from the company, one encourages me to sign up for membership, the other talks about boosting my credit score.
I learned through my brief, manic campaign in December to scrub my personal data as much as possible and start the new year with a clean digital slate, making it difficult for you to seem to be scratching the surface. Data is an industrial complex. By the end of my experiment, I felt worse about being able to regain control over my data than I had started.
Our data is out there. What now?
In recent years, it has become so honest in some tech-savvy Twitter threads that most of our personal information is already somewhere, thanks to an ever-growing list of hacks.
But there was more to be done, I thought. The reality is that the Internet is already packed with information that can be used against us, much of it completely gathered through legal means. First names of mothers. Birthdays. Home addresses. I may or may not be able to prevent my favorite stores from being hacked, or speak to a bunch of hackers after the fact, But a bad actor can make it a little harder to find my personal information online – and in the process, I can regain some control over my data and my life.
How to Delete Your Personal Information Online
Deciding to delete your information online is easy. The hardest part is figuring out where to start.
By providing a quick and easy guide to delete a range of popular services. Venkatesan hopes to “simplify” the process of scrubbing our data. As he puts it to CNN business companies, it is “very easy” for people to collect their data, but it is “very difficult” for them to get out. About 40,000 people visit the site every month, he said. By comparison, Facebook has four platforms, each with over 1 billion users.
These include data brokers who buy and sell our personal data, as well as “people search” services such as Spocky and Radaris, as well as background check platforms such as Infotracer and MyLife. They may not be household names, but these sites know a lot about homes. According to Harrison Tang, a new neighbor, tenant, client or, according to Spokeo CEO, “You can turn to these services if you are looking for information about long lost family members or friends.
“Different people have different feelings about privacy,” Tang said. As he says, the pressing issue is not just about collecting data, but about how and why more transparency is needed. “I don’t think customers should be surprised.”
Unlike data breaches that take great care to disclose our personal information, this data is legally aggregated. Spokio, which sells about $ 70 million a year from daily customers and some enterprise customers, including law enforcement agencies, pulls data from dating websites, social networks, criminal records and a “marketing database” from retailers, Tang said.
Jenna Raymond, COO of Accumcom Corp., an information services company that considers Infotracer one of its brands, told CNN Business in December that criminal records also include data records for these sites, as well as property records. “The minute you buy a house, it’s public information,” she said.
“You may deviate from the infotracer, but it’s not there yet.”
A game of walk-a-mole
In a matter of days, I pulled out of the infotracer – and many more.
Some, including Infotracer and Spokio, I was able to remove immediately; Others said it could take up to 72 hours to pull information. Many services require some new data to scrub the old one from the phone number to verify the deletion to the email address that MyLife asked for and then spam me.
Radaris representatives and MyLife did not respond to requests for comment for this story. The USPTO did not immediately respond to questions.
“Unfortunately there is no centralized service to delete your information from all sources by a single request,” according to Radaris Page.
By the time I finally took control of my Radaris page, it seemed more lost than before.