Handling Your Data Removal: DYI

Handling Your Data Removal: DYI

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If you prefer to handle the removal of your data on your own, then paying someone to do it may not be the best option for you. Here are some steps you can take to get started:

Getting Started with Data Removal

To actually remove your data, you will need to visit each data broker and people search websites and request that they remove your information. There are approximately 200 of these websites so it can be a time-consuming process. We recommend using a spreadsheet to track your progress for the different sites. Depending on how much of your data is out there, it may take around 30 hours to complete this process the first time. It is also suggested that you repeat this process every six months or so, as some websites may add your data back if they find it elsewhere.

Locating Opt-out Processes

The opt-out process is often found through a link on their website’s footer or in their privacy policy or terms and conditions page. There are generally four different types of opt-out processes that you will come across on a people search or data broker website. For each type, you will need to find a link somewhere on their page that says “Opt out,” “Removal,” “Remove my personal information,” or something similar. Once you click that link, you will need to follow the instructions they provide. The following is a list of the various processes you will come across:

  1. Search for yourself from the main page, click a removal link on your record, then follow their additional steps.
  2. Search for yourself from the main page, get the URL of your record, then submit it on the removal page, then follow their additional steps.
  3. Search for yourself from the removal page, then click a link on your record, then follow their additional steps.
  4. Submit your information on the removal page, then follow their additional steps (this is a blind removal since you don’t get to see the record they have on you).

Additional Steps and Obstacles

Most websites will require you to take additional steps to complete your opt-out. These vary by site, but some websites make it a hassle to remove your data. Here are some things you may come across in the process:

  • Captchas: You may need to solve several captchas, such as clicking on buses, chimneys, trucks, vehicles, crosswalks, fire hydrants, and more.
  • Verify email address: You may need to click a link in an email they send to you. Some websites have multiple records for the same person and require you to use a unique email address for each.
  • Verify phone number: You may need to provide a valid phone number, answer when their bot calls you, and enter the number shown on your screen.
  • Fake delays: Some websites may make you wait up to 2 minutes to get to your record while pretending to be searching their databases and scouring the web for your information.
  • VPN blocking: Some sites will block VPNs, so you may need to turn it off if you use one.
  • Send an email: You may need to send an email requesting your record be removed.
  • Money: Some sites require you to pay to remove your information. This is unethical.

Types of Records and Monetization Tactics

Not all data brokers or people search sites will show you what data they have for free. Here are the types of records websites you can find and how they make money. Some sites use a combination of these tactics:

  • Blind removal: Some data brokers don’t allow you to purchase just one record. They often sell groups of records to businesses. For these types of sites, you have to submit your data blindly and hope they remove it if they have a record that matches.
  • Behind paywall: Some websites hide your information behind a paywall. You have to pay to see your record. Often it is $1 for a week of unlimited reports, then $30 a month after that.
  • Show all, refer to the bigger site: Some websites will show you all the data they have for free. These sites often make money by showing you your record from a paid site that has more detail, and they get a commission if you buy from a bigger site. You have to remove your data from both sites to get it to stop showing up on this type of site.
  • Show all with ads: Some websites show you all the data they have while advertising to you.

Removing your personal data from data brokers and people search websites can be a time-consuming and challenging process. However, by going through the steps outlined in this guide, you can take control of your online presence and protect your privacy. Remember to revisit this process every six months to ensure your data stays removed from these sites.