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Consumer

ConsumerWatch: Personal Information Proves Difficult To Keep Private Online

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A computer keyboard. (CBS)

A computer keyboard. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – If you’ve ever Googled yourself, you probably know a lot of your personal information, like your age, address, and home value are now very public. But, opting out of data brokers websites isn’t always an option.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse maintains a database of data brokers that collect information from public records and display it, sometimes for a fee. But, the organization’s Kim Gough said the majority of data brokers don’t allow individuals to opt-out. And those that do often require additional information, such as phone numbers or driver license numbers, to verify identity.

“It’s a Catch-22,” Gough told ConsumerWatch.

Even if you do opt-out of one site, activist Adi Kamdar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said your personal information could soon appear elsewhere.

“There are quite a few of these sites, and more of them pop up every week,” Kamdar said.

Kamdar said databrokers are protected because “it’s within their first amendment rights because this is public information.”

Kamdar also said that’s why some people turn to reputation management companies, which, for a fee, automatically generate removal requests. Some even have relationships with data brokers that can make opting-out easier.

Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearing House would like to see a one-stop opt-out system, where individuals could make a single request to have their information removed from data brokers sites. But that might only tackle part of the problem, Givens admits, because much of the information is also in public records.

Related Link: Privacy Rights Clearing House Data Broker List with Opt-Out Policies.

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