It’s not easy to know exactly how to remove yourself from data broker sites. But it’s worth the peace of mind and added privacy! We’ll show you how.
The internet is a rich world of platforms and services that keep us connected with one another. This allows us to grow our network and feel closer to each other, as well as our favorite brands and communities.
It also gives strangers easy access to information that would otherwise be hard to find. Because of these online data privacy issues, you need to know how to remove yourself from data broker sites!
There’s a major downside to this openness and transparency: it’s nearly impossible to live a private life. By engaging online, you trade some measure of privacy — and put your personal information at risk of being hacked and then leaked or sold online. This can lead to identity theft — and tons of headaches, with the real cost of a data breach costing you time and money.
One major driver of this data privacy problem are data brokers. These secretive companies compile our information from different sources into a detailed data profile. By aggregating these sources, data brokers connect the dots to build a profile that knows you better than yourself!
This is often done without our consent — at least in the sense of giving permission to build these robust profiles. We may click “I agree” on individual privacy policies and terms of service…but we rarely grasp how much we are giving up. More often than not, these opt-ins become permission slips to sell our data to the highest bidder.
This sucks! We should have more control over our data. That’s why its advisable to take control. Our detailed guide shows you how to remove yourself from data broker sites!
Who are data brokers?
When the issue of data privacy comes up, most people immediately think of Facebook and Google. With recent data-privacy scandals from both brands, it’s hard not to think of them. There’s a whole other layer of other companies that deal in personal information.
So what are data brokers? These data brokers buy and sell data, building an enormously lucrative business from your personal information. Data brokers also collect information directly from websites and apps, or they buy it from other companies such as consumer and credit card companies.
There are some data brokers that crawl for information on the internet, combining this information with details from offline sources. The result of this is data brokers can aggregate a pretty detailed treasure trove of personal information.
It’s scary how much data brokers know about you by connecting the dots across all of these pieces of information! And they make so much money abusing your data: The industry generates up to $200 billion in revenue every year!
Are data brokers legal?
With the potential for unprecedented levels of privacy invasion, one would think data brokerage is illegal. However, the truth is it isn’t. Thanks to loopholes in data privacy laws, brokers work at the outskirts of the law. In fact, depending on their mode of operation, they may also be under the full compliance of the law.
This cycle repeats itself, with each broker making a small cut. Actually, your personal information gets repackaged, with a bunch of other people making money on it! That’s why it’s so difficult to control the amount of data they have on us — and why you may want to remove your name from Google searches or even delete yourself from the internet entirely.
In the same vein, there are people who willingly share their data with brokers. Some programs pay people for sharing granular details and others pay to offer their consent to the program selling data to brokers.
What type of data do brokers collect?
Data brokers collect every single piece of data that they can about individuals, connecting the dots to build robust consumer profiles. They can use all kinds of techniques to gather the data, and piece it together using your IP address, your smartphone’s device ID and other common traits, such as:
- Web history
- Social media
- Online purchase history
- Offline purchases
- The warranty information from consumer businesses
- Credit card info
- Offline government records
Some other sources that data brokers tap into:
- Census data
- DMV records
- Marriage licenses
- Business licenses
- Lawsuits and other public legal proceedings
- Voter registrations
- Public data around political/charitable contributions
- Land use records
Basically, the major sources of information are the consumer stores that sell to them. For instance, Datalogix, a former data broker collects information from different types of store loyalty cards. They didn’t provide information on the brands that sell this information. But sources say it had the details of up to $1 trillion in consumer purchases.
In the US, the data brokerage industry is one that works on secrecy. Most data brokers won’t tell us where exactly they get our information. Also, the retailers who may be selling our information have the same level of secrecy.
Based on this wide range of sources, data brokers know the following:
- Full name
- Telephone numbers
- Email addresses
- Address including previous places of residence
- Social security number
- Data about assets owned (including real estate)
Data brokers combine all of this information to create user segments. Then, they sell this data to companies who buy our personal information for targeted advertising. They don’t really need our full names and addresses. Instead, they use our purchase history, web history, and gender to make advertisements and improve targeting.
How data brokers sell your identity
Data brokers make money by reselling data they compile. Depending on the company they are selling to, there are specific categories that hold more importance for the buyers. For instance, a data broker selling info to a health company will make more money selling information about search engine activity that revolves around health. The better the broker is at accumulating data points, and then connecting the points into a precise profile, the more money it will make selling your identity.
There have been reports of lists selling for up to $100 for 1000 names, maybe even more. It’s a lucrative industry that generates billions of dollars. Of course, it’s not without its controversies. Recently, a huge data brokerage scandal involved a company selling data from rape victims, people battling erectile dysfunction, and alcoholics to advertisers.
Typically, when selling our information to advertising and related companies, brokers use a cost per mile (CPM), model. Or they may sell as a percentage of specific media.
There are stories of data brokers selling sensitive information like medical records to third-parties. These reports say they do this to make more money. However, most brokers don’t need to sell this kind of sensitive data to make millions. They can simply focus on categorizing their lists into broad categories like music lover, impulse buyer, etc.
And this invasion of privacy is exactly why you want to remove yourself from data broker sites — they can do whatever they want with your data. Unless you opt-out!
A list of the largest data brokers
These are dozens of data brokers in the United States. Here a few of the largest:
- Equifax Information Services
Check our list of the largest data brokers for more detailed information! To delete yourself from data broker sites, you’ll have to go through a manual process and do it one-by-one. Here’s how.
How to remove yourself from data broker sites
To remove yourself from data broker sites, the first step is to create a burner email account. That’s an email that you will never use for any other purpose than making your data deletion request. In order to delete your data, you have to share your data by creating an account first!
Yes, it’s shady. But are you really surprised?
So, rather than just giving them your personal information again, create a throw away email account for this purpose. Once you set that up, pour yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a comfortable chair.
This is going to take a while.
You’ll need to go to each individual data broker, create an account, and then make a request to delete your information. You also need to do this for any other names that they might have for you, including nicknames. You’ll be able to find out specifically what they have when you do your search. Just remember that you must do individual requests for each opt out!
Another shady caveat: You may need to make these requests again. These companies build profiles continuously; your deletion request doesn’t mean they can’t start collecting data about you again.
Groan. So set an annual task to do this process every year!
How to remove yourself from Acxiom
ESTIMATED TIME: 5 minutes
Axciom is one of the main offenders. As one of the biggest data brokers, it reaches into all aspects of your private and public life to compile its personal profiles.
Per Axciom’s website, opting out from its U.S. marketing data products does two things:
- “Reduce the amount of unsolicited marketing offers you receive from companies with whom you have not done business.”
- “Reduce the relevance of marketing offers you receive from companies you do have a relationship with that are also Acxiom clients. This is because Acxiom clients use these marketing data products to better understand what offers may be of interest to you.”
Sounds good to me! To reduce unwanted spam and stop the selling of your data, opt-out from Axciom by following these steps:
- Scroll down to the very bottom of the Axciom opt-out form. You can also call (877) 774-2094 and follow the automated prompts.
- Choose which segments you want to opt-out from: Mailing addresses, phone numbers and/or email addresses.
- Enter your full name, exactly as it appears on the information you want to be deleted.
- Add your phone number and email address.
- Respond to the confirmation email to validate your request.
It takes two weeks for requests to process — and even then, it can take them awhile to remove your data. So you kind of have to stay on top of them (like all of these data removal requests 😣).
Also, from Axciom: “Please note that this opt out request is not effective for removal of data that may have been provided to marketers prior to your request.” In other words, tough luck when it comes to all the data that marketers have about you already!
That’s why it’s important to individually opt-out from as many companies as you can, so they can’t use your personal data any longer!
How to remove yourself from Epsilon
ESTIMATED TIME: 5 minutes
Epsilon is a data marketing service that “collects business and consumer data used by marketers and advertisers to communicate relevant messages and offers our products and services they sell.”
Unlike some of the other shady brokers listed here, Epsilon doesn’t make it too difficult to opt out. There are three options to opt out of Epsilon:
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and complete mailing address.
- Submit this form with one of three request types: opt-out of selling personal information, delete personal information, or see what information has been collected for your name and address. You can only submit one type per request but multiple submissions are allowed.
- You can also call (866) 267-3861.
Epsilon’s identity verification step is more rigorous than others. When you submit a request for data dilation or to access the data that the company has on you, you will be linked to a third-party provider they will ask questions to confirm your identity. Those questions will be based on public records, so it’s important that you can answer them correctly to verify your identity.
For California residents to opt-out of the sale of personal information, also go here.
How to remove yourself from Oracle
ESTIMATED TIME: 5 minutes
You may have heard of Oracle — it’s a mammoth software company that has many products. One of those products is a direct marketing service that uses consumer data, such as emails and phone numbers, to provide targeting marketing. It’s called Oracle Marketing and Data Cloud.
Here’s how to opt out:
- Visit Oracle’s data sharing opt-out page.
- Enter your personal information.
- Submit! Oracle makes it easier than most.
After submission, Oracle will “opt you out of third-party sharing and delete the offline data associated with your profile.” This also includes data that leads to offline mail — so you should get less junk mail!
Oracle takes up to 30 days to process requests, so be sure to mark your calendar to follow up. Sense a theme here? Yep: trust but verify. You have to trust they’ll be good corporate citizens — but verify that they are
Also, note that Oracle maintains some data to abide by the opt-out request and that you’ll need to submit one request for each member of your household.
How to remove yourself from Equifax
ESTIMATED TIME: 10-45 minutes
Equifax notoriously exposed the personal data of nearly 150 million Americans in one of the largest data breaches in history. The company settled with the FTC for $425 million, one of the largest fines at that time.
That lax approach to data security left a poor impression on most Americans. Yet, we’re unable to escape the claw of these credit bureaus that drive so many financial decisions. Thankfully, there are some options if you want to remove yourself from Equifax. First, you can remove yourself from pre-screened offers to reduce your junkmail:
- Go to Opt-Out Prescreen
- Select “Click Here to Opt-in or Opt-out”
- Choose “Electronic Opt-Out for Five Years”
- Fill out thee required infromation
This will only opt you out for five years. To permanently opt-out, you’ll need to print, fill and mail the “Permanent Opt-Out” to: Innovis Consumer Assistance, PO Box 495, Pittsburgh, PA 45230-1689.
You may also want to consider opting out of having your salary data stored, shared and sold. Read more about this on Krebs, which also recommended requesting your data report prior to requesting a freeze on sharing your employment data:
How to remove yourself from Experian
ESTIMATED TIME: 10-45 minutes
You’ve likely heard of Experian before. Alongside Equifax and TransUnion the company is one of the larger credit monitoring services. When you apply for credit, the merchant checks your creditworthiness with one of these big credit companies.
Given their role in evaluating an individual’s credit history, you can imagine how much they know about you! Of course, you can’t delete yourself completely; there’s a base level of data that the company is allowed to keep for evaluating your credit.
But you can opt out of things like pre-approved credit offers, which are one of the primary ways that the company makes money. Basically, it sells your information to financial services companies that Use preapprovals to generate interest.
Here’s how to opt out of Experian. Unfortunately, the company has many products which requires you to opt out individually across several services. That’s just another indicator of how much personal data this company monetizes!
- First, try emailing email@example.com to see if you can opt out of everything in one go. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot!
- You can also send snail mail to Experian Opt-out Services at PO Box 80128, Lincoln, NE 68521.
- In both cases, make sure that you include your full name and any variations, As well as your current mailing address, phone number and any email addresses associated with your name.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to go to each of the following services to opt out. What a pain!
- Opting Out of OmniActivation Strategic Services
- Opting Out of Direct Mail
- Opting Out of Telemarketing
- Opting Out of Email
Experian has two ways to opt-out of email communications, per the opt-out page:
- “Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the email address you wish to unsubscribe. Please clearly state in your email, “Unsubscribe me from Experian’s email database.”
- To opt out of all email marketing messages from Experian, you must send an email to email@example.com from the email address you wish to unsubscribe. Please clearly state in your email, “Unsubscribe me from all Experian email marketing.”
- Opting Out of Online Targeted Advertising
- Opting Out of Partner Opt Out
- Opting Out of Preapproved Offers
How to remove yourself from CoreLogic
ESTIMATED TIME: 15 minutes
As a data broker serving real estate and other businesses, CoreLogic has quite a good deal of personal information on hand. It uses this data to personalize offers and connect its clients to potential customers wiht targeted advertising.
Annoyingly, CoreLogic doesn’t allow all people to remove themselves from this tracking. Removal requests are only available to California residents. If that’s you, then you can submit a request by following this steps:
- Open an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Make the subject line “California Privacy Rights Request”
- In your email, say that you want to remove yourself from CoreLogic databases and opt-out of all future marketing communications. Include your name, street address, city, state, and ZIP.
- If you don’t hear back in a week, follow up to confirm the receipt of the request.
- Note that they only respond to one request a year, so submitting multiple requests won’t work.
To complete a permanent opt-out of pre-screened offers from CoreLogic clients, complete this form and send it to CoreLogic Teletrack Opt-Out Request P.O. Box 509124 San Diego, CA 92150.
How to opt out of pre-approved credit offers
ESTIMATED TIME: 5 minutes
When you’re looking how to remove yourself from data broker sites, you also have to consider your rights. Thanks to federal legislation, the Big Three credit bureaus must allow you to opt-out of pre-approved credit offers, which are those mailings you often get with credit card offers.
You can opt out of prescreened lists by calling 888-567-8688 or making a request at OptOutPrescreen.com. To process the opt-out, keep your personal information handy, including your Social Security number and date of birth.
Keep in mind that these two methods will only allow you to opt out for five years. If you want to opt out permanently, you’ll need to actually print a letter and send it in.
The largest data brokers and people search sites are quite invasive of our privacy, and they hardly care to ask for permission. That’s why it makes sense to learn how to remove yourself from data broker sites. Stay safe, protect your data and prevent identity theft!