Earlier in 2017 Equifax was hacked. The result being that my personal information was floating around the internet once again. My first (known) experience with this sort of thing was the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack in 2015. I was offered the consolation prize of free credit monitoring. This time around, I was a bit angrier and started looking into options.
Step 1: Mitigate Risk
I locked my social security number via the social security website. Normally I would supply the link, but there have been a lot of knock-off sites and it would be a cruel irony if I sent you to a fake one.
Second, I took advantage of Equifax’s consolation prize of free credit monitoring. Again, link not provided for security reasons.
Step 2: Get Angry
Looking for viable options to scrub my identity from the internet, I came to the quick conclusion that it would be a) super expensive or b) super time-consuming. I dialed up my attorney and asked for further options to which he said that he would be happy to draft cease and desist letters. Who should be the target?
There are many companies making money from selling your personal information to businesses looking to market to you. Most of these transactions are legit and you and I probably have approved them in the sweet terms and conditions we click through during the course of a normal internet day. While my first choice would be to delete my Equifax account, we figured that was too extreme. Data brokers can be contacted and most will delete all of your data, so we sent a letter to 6 of them. 4 opted me out of their system and 2 of those deleted my data. 1 has yet to respond.
Step 3: Get less angry and get organized
The process to do this is expensive- besides lawyer fees, you have to send each letter certified with a return receipt to prove it was received. There are likely (still under research) 200+ data brokers. Raise your hand if you like spending your day at the post office?
Speaking with two friends, we came up with a movement to get companies to delete all of your personal data. This would be a grinding, mail driven campaign. With a few members per month, we could send hundreds of letters. As these companies respond, we would tailor and iterate the letters to achieve the maximum desired effect. Our first targets are data brokers, as they are accustomed to fielding these requests and we know we can have success. Moving forward, we would like to target:
- Old email account providers
- Telecom companies
- Credit bureaus
- Social Media accounts
- Government databases (why are they giving away our data to begin with?)
- Grocery stores / pharmacies / loyalty programs
- Mobile apps
Many of these companies have legitimate uses for your data while you are a customer. However, should your phone company continue to make money from your data after you have fired them? How can you delete all your data when you are no longer their customer?
Conclusion: Join The Movement and Delete All Your Data!
Let’s face it, everyone is making money on your personal data except for you. The only way to make data into an asset that you can control is to make it scarce. This is the first step in a long journey to reset our relationship with data. Please join the movement!Join!
PS – As this is a privacy-based website, we will refrain from identifying people unless they explicitly request it. That goes for our staff and blog writers as well