Personal data is a valuable commodity which is widely available online. Each time you buy something, post on social media, or fill in a form, you provide legitimate companies (and potentially fraudsters) with details they can use to spam you or even scam you.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit how much of your personal data is out there and control how it is used. Here are just four.
1. Check Your Privacy Settings
One of the most important steps to retake control of your data is to check your privacy settings. The first sites to target are Google and social media platforms. On Google, head to the “Data & Privacy” section to adjust your settings. For example, you can turn off Location History and your web and app activity. Likewise, on your active social media sites, navigate to the privacy section to change such settings as web tracking and which information you make publicly viewable. You might also consider deleting your profile if you no longer, or seldom, use the platform.
2. Ask Google To Remove Your Personal Information
Google has an option for individuals to request that certain personally identifiable information is removed from its search results pages. While there are limits to the types of information Google will consider removing, contact details, financial information, and Social Security numbers can be taken down.
Google has a simple online form that users can fill in to request their data is removed. However, it is worth remembering that having your data removed from Google results does not remove it from the internet or from similar search engines, such as Bing.
3. Revoke Consent For Third-Party Data Sharing
Websites operating in jurisdictions governed by relevant data protection laws should require users to explicitly give consent to sharing their data with third parties for various purposes, including marketing and analytics.
The company must have a policy in place that clearly sets out what information is collected and how it is used. The policy should also make clear that users can withdraw their consent at any time.
Often, we click the box agreeing to data sharing without really reading the policy or understanding which third parties will have access to our details. So, to take back control of your data, revisit sites with which you have shared personal information and revoke your consent.
4. Opt Out Of Data Brokers
Finally, one of the best ways to limit how your personal data is used is to request your information be removed from brokers’ databases. Data brokers specialize in gathering personal information from various online sources for the purpose of making money, either directly or by selling the data.
There are lots of data broker sites out there, often specializing in particular types of information, such as financial and health records. Another category is people search sites.
A large number of these sites have opt out processes, whereby you can request they delete any information they hold on you.
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