Data brokers are companies that collect your information from a variety of sources to sell or license it out to other businesses. Before they can pass your data along, brokers analyze it to put you into specific consumer profiles. Consumer profiles help businesses suggest products you might like and create targeted marketing campaigns based on your interests.
Companies who buy data from brokers use it for things like marketing or risk mitigation. For example, if you’re a guitarist, a guitar manufacturer might try to reach you with an ad for their instruments. If you’re in the market for car insurance, insurance providers might use your personal information to do a background check so they can assess the risk that you’ll be in a car accident.
While businesses don’t typically use your information maliciously, there are risks involved with having your personal data spread online. There might be certain details you don’t want to share with the world, like health or criminal records or financial issues.
Having your data featured online can also expose it to cybercriminals who might use it for identity theft. Sometimes, hackers can even breach information that’s stored in an information broker’s database. When a criminal has your data, they might be able to access your financial accounts, use your credit to secure a loan, or even use your insurance to receive medical care.
This article shows you how to remove your information from data broker sites and protect your data privacy online.
Where do data brokers get your information?
There are various ways for a data broker to access your personal information. Some of these information sources are offline. For example, a broker can peruse public records to view your voter registration information.
Other information sources that brokers use are online. For instance, a broker might track your buying history to see which products you’re likely interested in.
Below are some of the top sources data brokers use to collect consumer information.
- Websites you visit: Typically, websites and search engines have software trackers that store information about what you do on the internet. Data brokers use web scraping tools to collect data from the websites and social media pages you go to online.
- Items you’ve purchased: Data brokers are extremely interested in which products and services you’ve used in the past. They can track your online spending habits on retail and e-commerce sites. Brokers also want to know things like whether you’ve used coupons or loyalty cards to pay for items.
- Online agreement forms: Usually, you’ll have to agree to terms and conditions when you register for a new service or program online. Sometimes, companies add disclaimers in the fine print of their terms that notify you that your information can be shared.
- Public records: Brokers might be able to find information like your date of birth, Social Security number (SSN), marriage record, driving record, or court records simply by looking through public records.
How many data broker companies are there?
Data brokering is a worldwide industry that brings in around $200 billion annually. An estimated 4,000 data broker companies exist. The largest data broker companies include organizations like Acxiom, Experian, and Epsilon.
Can you remove personal information from data broker sites?
Most data broker sites will give you the ability to have your personal information removed from their database — but don’t expect it to be easy.
You might have to follow a multi-step process to opt-out of a broker site. Even after your information is removed, you may have to repeat the process periodically.
Different regions have different laws when it comes to protecting consumer data. The European Union has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives consumers the right to request that a company deletes any personal information they have stored.
In the United States, states have to create their own laws to safeguard consumer privacy. States like Colorado and California have enacted laws that allow consumers to have their personal information removed from data broker sites.
How to remove personal information from data broker sites
The next few sections go over steps you can follow to get your information removed from various data broker sites. Many broker sites allow you to opt out of their data collection and advertising programs.
Opting out can prevent brokers from collecting and sharing your information and help you avoid intrusive ads for things like pre-approved credit cards.
Go to the data broker website
The first thing you’ll have to do is visit each data broker’s site that has your information. Some of the biggest data broker sites that might have your information include:
- Acxiom aggregates information from millions of consumers across the globe. It sells personal information like your religious beliefs and political affiliations to telemarketing and commerce businesses.
- Epsilon provides data to a variety of companies worldwide. It has a big database that holds information about millions of households and businesses.
- Oracle designs and manufactures database and networking solutions for businesses, in addition to being a huge data broker. Oracle will often work with third-party data brokers.
- Equifax is one of the three big credit reporting bureaus in the U.S. It provides financial information to both businesses and investors. In 2017, a data breach at Equifax exposed the personal information of almost 150 million people.
- Experian is another one of the big credit bureaus in the U.S. Like Equifax, Experian provides financial data to businesses and investors.
- CoreLogic provides information to businesses like real estate companies and landlords trying to do things like screen applicants for rental properties.
While these are some of the largest data broker sites around, this list is by no means exhaustive. There’s a large number of data-sharing sites out there. For example, people-search sites like PeekYou, Spokeo, and Whitepages, let average consumers search through databases of personal information.
Create an account with the data broker site
It may seem counterintuitive to sign up for an account with a broker when all you want is to delete your information from their site, but most data brokers require you to register with them to opt-out of data collection.
You’ll likely have to create an account with every data broker you want to opt-out of. Unfortunately, this will require you to give the brokers some personal information, like your name, email address, and possibly a picture of your driver’s license. Cross out your license number if you have to send a photo of your ID.
Find your personal information
After creating an account with a broker, you’ll likely have to visit their portal to find out whether they have your personal information listed. Checking to see what every data broker has listed about you can be a time-consuming process.
Services like DeleteMe and Kanary will delete your information from data brokers. However, most of these sites charge a fee, and they only delete your information from a select number of sites. For example, DeleteMe removes your information from 36 different data broker sites.
You should also be aware that some data broker sites don’t allow third parties to request for information to be deleted on behalf of consumers.
Make removal requests for each instance of data
You’ll have to make a separate removal request for every data broker site you want to opt-out of. Some data brokers make the process more difficult than others. Remember that data companies are always collecting records, so you may need to repeat the process of removing your information from data broker sites annually.
Here’s how to opt-out of some of the largest data brokering companies we mentioned earlier:
- Acxiom: Go to the Acxiom opt-out form or call their support number at 877-774-2094. Pick which types of data you don’t want the company to gather. It can take a few weeks for your request to process.
- Epsilon: Email email@example.com and include your name and mailing address. You can also use the opt-out form to ask the company not to sell your personal information or delete your data entirely. If you don’t want to use email, you can call Epsilon’s phone number at 866-267-3861. Epsilon will have a third party verify your identity by asking questions about your personal information.
- Oracle: Go to Oracle’s opt-out page. Type in your personal info and click submit. It can take up to a month for Oracle to process your request.
- Equifax: On Equifax’s opt-out prescreen page, click “Click Here to Opt-In or Opt-Out” at the bottom of the page. Pick the option “Electronic Opt-Out for Five Years.” You’ll have to provide some personal information. Click submit.
- Experian: You’ll likely have to opt-out of all of Experian’s services individually. Experian’s data sharing services include OmniActivation Strategic Services, Direct Mail, Telemarketing, and Email. You can also try sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you send an email, include the exact phrase, “Unsubscribe me from Experian’s email database,” in your message.
- CoreLogic: Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subject line will need to be “California Privacy Rights Request.” Your email must state that you’d like to remove yourself from the companies’ databases and opt out of marketing programs. The email should have your name and address. If you don’t get a confirmation in about a week, follow up and ask for the status of your request. You can also try filling out the company’s opt-out form and mailing it to CoreLogic Teletrack Opt-Out Request, P.O. Box 509124, San Diego, CA, 92150.
Secure your identity online with McAfee Total Protection
The data broker industry is enormous. A data brokerage can collect a wealth of information about you from a huge number of sources, and provide that information to businesses that use it to do things like design targeted marketing campaigns for their ideal consumers.
Brokers can share sensitive information that you want to keep private, like medical data. Having your personal information floating around the internet makes it easier for cybercriminals to use it for personal gain.
By opting out of information-sharing programs, you can protect your online privacy, reduce the number of intrusive advertisements and emails you receive, and make it less likely that identity thieves will target you.
One of the best ways to protect yourself online is to use quality security software. When you sign up for McAfee’s Total Protection, you’ll benefit from our Personal Data Cleanup service, which shows you where your data is online and will regularly remove it for you.
You can also experience features like award-winning antivirus software, 24/7 account monitoring, a secure virtual private network (VPN), and up to $1 million in identity theft coverage and restoration.
When it comes to protecting your privacy online, McAfee has your back.