Data brokers opt-out

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How to remove yourself from data broker sites manually

There are hundreds of data broker sites out there, each with its own opt-out procedure. The whole process, however, can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Prioritize the removal based on the data broker site traffic and/or opt-out difficulty.
  2. Find your profiles.
  3. Create a dummy email and phone number for communications with data brokers such as receiving confirmation codes and emails.
  4. Submit opt-out requests to each website individually.
  5. Check back after a while to confirm the removal (find the average opt-out timeframes in our DIY guides).

The list of data broker opt-out guides

Find the guides you need. Sort to prioritize your removals.

Sort by:
  • More site visits means more people see your private information. Sites with higher visits count tend to have a stronger presence on Google.

  • Ranks data brokers based on the opt-out complexity and how long the site takes to erase your information.

  • Ranks data brokers based on the opt-out complexity and how long the site takes to erase your information.

How many data broker companies are there?

There are around 5,000 data broker companies worldwide, and the data broker industry is projected to grow from $280 billion in 2023 to more than $382 billion by 2030.

Thousands of data brokers are estimated to operate in the United States alone. Currently, there are 550 data brokers listed on the California data broker registry and 424 active data brokers on Vermont’s registry. As of this writing, California, Vermont, Oregon, and Texas are the only four states with data broker laws that require registration.

However, not all data brokers are created equal and there are significant differences in how they operate and the risks they pose to ordinary individuals. Here are three major types:

People-search sites

Also known as people-finder sites, these are open directories that collect your personal information from various sources, then organize it into profiles and make it available to anyone online. In most cases, they’ll share some of your data for free, then charge a fee to see your full profile. Typically called "background reports," these profiles contain dozens of data points such as date of birth, home address, location history, contact details, relatives, gender, employment and educational background, credit score range, income, marriage and divorce records, properties, assets, bankruptcies and liens, political affiliations, religious affiliations, and many others.

Admittedly, people-search sites can be used for valid reasons, like locating long-lost friends and relatives, vetting people you met online before meeting them in person, or researching an unknown phone number that keeps calling.

However, unlike other data brokers that primarily operate business-to-business, people-search sites share your information with anyone interested, including those with malicious intent. Thus, they are also often used by scammers and fraudsters due to the abundance of personal details they share. Interestingly, even law enforcement can use these sites to get information without warrants. 

To safeguard your online privacy and minimize the risk of identity theft, we recommend removing your personal information from people-search sites. They typically have opt-out procedures in place that allow you to remove yourself from their databases. 

The biggest and most well-known people-search sites include Whitepages, Spokeo, BeenVerified, Truthfinder, and FastPeopleSearch.

Major data broker companies

Major data broker companies are the basis of the whole broker ecosystem. They accumulate information about people from a wide range of sources, including public records, banking systems, retailers, social media, mobile apps, and numerous others. They organize the accumulated details into comprehensive profiles, then sell or license this consumer data to other businesses (such as insurance and credit card companies) for risk mitigation, fraud detection, credit decisioning, employment background checks, and targeted marketing campaigns. 

Typically, they do not make profiles publicly available and don’t pose threats to consumer safety. In addition, many businesses that deliver value to consumers are dependent on the data these companies provide, as it’s used for credit monitoring, identity theft protection, and anti-fraud solutions, to name a few. 

The largest data brokers include TransUnion, Experian, CoreLogic, LexisNexis, and Acxiom.

Business directories

Business directories typically list information about companies, such as financial data, the number of employees, their names, and contact details. These sites usually don’t publish profiles openly, but give access to them after registration. 

Business directories typically focus on professional data and don’t expose personal details such as home address, personal contact information, family background, and so on. These platforms are mostly used by salespeople to research company demographics and contact decision-makers. 

However, most business directories still provide an opt-out option in case you don’t want your information shared via their databases.

Examples include ZoomInfo, Lusha, Dun & Bradstreet, and RocketReach.

Where do data brokers get your information?

Data broker sites use many sources to get your personal information, including:

  • Public records: These are documents recorded and stored by government agencies that are openly accessible to the public. Data brokers take advantage of this open access and collect your personal information from birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce records, court records, motor vehicle records, voter registrations, census data, criminal records, and numerous other documents
  • Shopping activity: Data brokers buy consumer data from retailers, credit card companies, and loyalty programs. They can track when you shop, what you buy, brand preferences, and when you use coupons to reveal insights about your purchasing habits
  • Social media, apps, and other online activity: Various platforms employ browser cookies and web scrapers to extract personal data from your social media profiles, websites you surf, and apps you use. Many online services then sell gathered information to data brokers. In addition, you can unwittingly share your personal information with data brokers when you submit online forms, enter sweepstakes, or take online surveys and quizzes
  • Other data brokers: Many data broker sites also buy your information from one another. If one data broker has your personal info, all of them could eventually get hold of it

After aggregating information from these diverse sources, data brokers construct comprehensive profiles that encompass various facets of an individual’s life.

What information do data brokers collect about you?

Data brokers collect hundreds and even thousands of data points about you, including but not limited to:

  • Contact information: Name, phone number, email address, and mailing address
  • Demographics: Birthdate, age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, children and other family members, education level, and political, charitable, and religious affiliations
  • Financial data: Income, credit score, net worth, assets, and property records
  • Shopping activity: Purchase history, transaction data, brand preferences, and payment methods
  • Online activity: Sites you visit, search history, newsletter subscriptions, apps you use, advertisements you click, and social media accounts and activity
  • Other information: Interests and hobbies, location history, employment history, health conditions, and information in public records such as vehicle records, court records, and arrest records

Prevent data brokers from collecting your personal information

The best way to prevent data brokers from collecting and selling your personal information is to reduce your online footprint and stop them from accessing your data in the first place.

Limit personal data sharing

Avoid sharing personal data online, especially on public platforms such as social media and online forums. Never post potentially sensitive information, images, or videos you don’t want to be shared or sold with others, as your information could be used for scams, blackmail, and crimes such as identity theft.

Data brokers can glean a lot of consumer information from online forms, so avoid filling them out when possible. If you need to submit a form, only give the required details, and opt out of loyalty programs, sweepstakes, surveys, or quizzes – all of which can be used to get your personal info.

Strengthen privacy settings

Review privacy settings for all social media platforms, apps, and online services you use. Best practices include limiting who can see your social media posts, preventing browsers from indexing your accounts, and preventing apps from tracking your activities and location data.

Be sure to check your browser settings and enable all available privacy features. For example, you can block third-party cookies, opt out of personalized ads, turn off location services, and disable camera and microphone access. If you’re not using a privacy-first browser, be sure to use secure search engines or browse in Incognito mode and always reject all cookies when prompted.

Use dummy data

Use dummy data whenever possible to keep personal information private and prevent data broker sites from piecing your identity together via various sources. For example, if a download is gated, you can use a fake name, dummy email address, and dummy phone number. Several services are available to mask your real contact information.  You should also use a pseudonym on social media and only share it with trusted friends and family members.

Additionally, consider using a virtual credit card. Virtual credit cards can hide your financial information, making it difficult for financial data brokers to gain insights into your shopping history.

Delete unused accounts and apps

Online accounts and apps are common sources of consumer information for data brokers, especially free services and games (they often make money by selling your data, not by selling their services). Start by removing all personal information from your profiles. If you can’t remove it, then replace it with dummy data to help prevent your real information from lingering in databases. Finally, delete your accounts.

You should also only download new apps or sign up for accounts that are necessary and don't have a browsing-as-aguest option. Even then, always be sure to read the fine print in their privacy policy and terms of service to see if they share or sell your personal information to third parties. If they do, explore alternatives, or see if there is a way to opt out of data collection and sharing.

Use a secure browser and ad blocker

Use a secure browser and ad blocker to prevent trackers from extracting your personal information and sharing it with data brokers. Some browsers offer additional security features such as built-in VPNs to add extra peace of mind when you’re navigating the web.

Privacy-centric browsers include Brave, Opera, and Duck Duck Go. Popular ad blockers include Adblock Plus, uBlock Origin, and Ghostery, which also has a private browser.

Remove yourself from Google search results

Data brokers get information from publicly available sources, and Google is a good way to find where your information is published. The Results About You tool finds you in Google search results and also allows you to make a request to remove them. Per Google’s policies, they will remove results that include your personally identifiable information.

Note that this only removes your personal info from Google search results, not the original websites it was published on, so it’s a good idea to request removal directly from any sites that publish your information – though there’s no guarantee they’ll honor your data removal requests.

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

A virtual private network hides your IP address, which can be used to track your online activity, identify your general location, serve targeted advertisements, and target you with sophisticated scams.

It’s important to choose a trusted VPN that encrypts your traffic and does not log your activity. Many paid VPNs are available, but some popular free options include Proton VPN and Windscribe (which also has an ad blocker).

Use strong passwords and enable 2FA

Never use passwords based on actual words – there are plenty of free online services that can generate strong passwords with random letters, numbers, and symbols. Also, never reuse the same password (or close variations of it) on more than one site. Instead, use a secure password manager so you don’t have to remember every single password.

Two-factor authentication options include email, text, phone calls, and authenticator apps. Generally speaking, authenticator apps are the most secure because their codes are more difficult for hackers to intercept. Popular options include Google Authenticator and Authy.  

Install antimalware software on all your devices

Malware can infect your devices, log your keystrokes, steal your login credentials, and otherwise spy on your activity. Antimalware software scans and continually monitors for viruses and other types of threats. Be sure to install antimalware on all your devices and schedule regular scans.

Opt out of data brokers

You can manually submit a removal request to each data broker site one by one, but they purposefully make the removal process tedious and time-consuming. A faster, easier option is to use a data broker removal service to automatically submit opt-out requests to hundreds of data brokers at once. Most data removal services also continually monitor data brokers to ensure your sensitive information doesn’t get republished.

Frequently asked questions about data brokers

Are data brokers legal?

Yes, data brokers are legal. They are allowed to collect, organize, share, and sell personal information about you. However, they must comply with privacy regulations (such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, California Consumer Privacy Act, and General Data Protection Regulation) that require them to remove your information when you make an opt-out request. If they fail to comply, they could violate the law and be subject to legal consequences. However, just because the data brokerage industry is legal doesn’t mean every data broker employs lawful data collection practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for example, recently charged one data broker for violating the FTC Act by disclosing consumer locations without informed consent.

How do data brokers sell my identity?

Data brokers AKA people-search sites collect, organize, and sell consumer data to anyone willing to pay. That means anyone can get sensitive details such as your name, contact information, location history, demographics, and health information from a data broker’s website. Buyers can include scammers who use that sensitive data to impersonate you and commit identity theft – which is why it’s critical to remove yourself from data broker sites.

How long does it take to remove my data when I opt out?

Some data brokers remove your personal data within 24 hours after you submit an opt-out request, while others can take up to two weeks or longer to remove your information. Ultimately, it depends on each site’s opt-out process and how responsive it is to each request. Some data brokers require you to verify your identity before removal, while others won’t remove your information until you’ve sent multiple opt-out requests.

Are data brokers safe?

Some data brokers are relatively safe, while others are not. People-search sites are not safe because they expose your personal information to the public and anyone can access it, making these the most important sites to opt out of. Major data brokers such as Experian and Acxiom that focus on risk mitigation, fraud prevention, and targeted marketing are moderately safe because their databases aren’t public – they mainly share information with other businesses. Marketing and business databases pose no danger to your safety, though they can increase spam and the annoyance that comes with it.

What are the risks of data brokers?

Data brokers put you at multiple risks by exposing your private information. Criminals can use information from people-search sites to impersonate you, commit identity theft, launch phishing and smishing scams on you and your family members, gain access to your financial accounts, take out loans in your name, and even get healthcare in your name. In other cases, an ex-romantic partner could use a data broker to find your current address and stalk you. A hate group could use a data broker website to identify your sexual orientation or religious and political affiliations, then harass, stalk, or even attack you.

What is the purpose of data brokers?

Some data brokers exist to determine creditworthiness, prevent identity fraud, and mitigate risk. Others sell information to companies for marketing and advertising purposes. For example, a data broker might sell lists of new parents to companies that target consumers with baby product advertisements. Others are people finder sites which allow anyone to find personal information about anyone else. Business directories aim to provide company background info and provide employees’ contacts.