Week Two: Take On Data Brokers for Your Info

I said last week we’d be talking browser extensions, but my friend who is a real security expert pointed out something that changed my mind. So we’re going to talk about a threat that women on the internet and victims of right-wing hate mobs know all too well already: DOXXING and other online harassment based on your publicly accessible information.

Why the shift? As I said last week, you need to think proactively about threats to your safety. Right now, donating money to the ACLU and showing up at large rallies will not be particularly interesting to agency and state-level actors yet. But you could be at risk today from doxxing, because you are easy to find.

Don’t believe me? Open up DuckDuckGo, and search your name (and variants you regularly use) in quotation marks, so “Mae Beth Dawes”. If some form of online database doesn’t have your name in it, linked to a place you’ve lived and probably your family members, then you are either a security ninja or trolling. The rest of you have just discovered how much public information is out there for anyone willing to look and maybe put down a twenty spot.

You want that information gone. This is a tedious process, and some of it will involve the obnoxious step of giving people who are profiting off your information your government ID. So pour yourself a glass of something tasty, put on some music, and let’s do this.

  1. Get yourself away from the Facebook and Twitter data brokers: Click on this link to opt out of Facebook data mining. This one will take care of Twitter. Bonus? Less creepy targeted advertising.
  2. Have less junk mail and particularly, pre-approved credit card offerings coming to your address. This guide is direct from the (American) FTC and I’ve used it fairly successfully: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email
  3. Do a Google (or better, a DuckDuckGo) search for your name. Find everyone on the first three pages of your search results who has your information. Opt out. I find this guide to be up to date on the current brokers and how to get your results removed. TBH, you will run through a very similar process for most people: find your profile, copy down the number related to it (usually in the browser bar), find a link hidden in the site’s “Privacy Policy” page, enter your information and email, and opt out.
The red box has the number you should copy down

4. Keep finding opt-outs. This directory is not 100% up to date, but if you want to be thorough, go through it: http://www.internetremoval.com/directory/

5. Get rid of old social media profiles. If you have an old MySpace, get rid of it: https://help.myspace.com/hc/en-us/articles/202241380-Delete-your-Profile and if you never use your Google+, get rid of it!

Like I said, this will be a bit tedious and frustrating. But let me share an anecdote — I do genealogy for fun. The easiest way to find second, third, fourth cousins for little to no money? Obituaries, Spokeo, and Facebook connections. I found those cousins looking up my great-grandparents’ obituaries or even THEIR parents’ obituaries and tracking down all those brothers and sisters with their locations and names in there. If I can do it for benign reasons, ch*nscum can do it for malicious ones.

Next week, the actual lesson on making your browser more opaque to all the tracking being done on you there.

Stay safe online, guys!

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