Today anyone with a few dollars can find out where you live, learn all of your old addresses, your birthdate, religion, education, marital status, the names of your relatives, your phone numbers, political affiliation, and all kinds of personal information. All they have to do is Google your name, click through a few websites, and pay a few dollars to one of a few dozen companies willing to sell them this info.
It’s creepy, and it’s wrong – but it’s legal. There are obviously serious privacy concerns with these online directories and several risks involved. With personal information so easily available you can:
- Expect to get attention from robo-callers and spammers (both offline and online).
- Be the target of identity theft.
- Live at risk and fear of someone who wants to harass or stalk you.
- Be the specific target of a hacker who now has answers to security questions or information like your date of birth, potentially giving them access to sensitive accounts.
While it’s hard to avoid giving your information to companies such as Experian and Equifax, major credit bureaus, you might be surprised to hear that companies such as Axciom, Epsilon, and Confi-Chek, are collecting your personal information. These companies, among many others, own various directory and records companies and make money off selling your personal information. For a comprehensive list, check out this Fast Company article.
Fortunately, there is something you can do to get your name and info out of most of the ‘data for sale’ brokers people can find online. Some of these services allow you to opt-out, but unfortunately, it’s almost never easy to remove your data from these companies. They all have different processes of removing the information and it’s seldom simple. Afterall, their business depends on having your information, so they’re incentivized to keep it.
As a result, services have popped up that will do the hard work for you in order to remove personal information from many of the more popular online directories. These companies have automated dozens of different manual processes, saving you hours and hours of frustration and effort. And they monitor the services because even when you opt-out or taken the time to remove your data, these companies end up resurfacing your data weeks or months later – so the whole removal process has to be repeated.
Our pick for directory removal service? Zoro (formerly Brand Yourself).
Zoro is an online reputation management and privacy company for individuals and businesses. They offer a variety of services such as social media monitoring services, negative Google results reporting, personal branding services, and privacy protection services.
For this article, we’ll focus on the privacy protection service, which removes your personal information from major data brokers on your behalf.
How it works
Zoro offers its Private Info Removal service for a one-time fee of $99.99. They will opt you out of over 20 major data brokers and provide updates and status reports for each request. Because each data broker works differently, and processing times vary, the status reports are relevant as you wait until you get confirmation that your information has been properly removed. This is confirmed in 30-45 days.
Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), because data brokers aren’t the most honest companies they’ll frequently resurface personal information even after you’ve submitted an opt out request.
To remedy this problem, Zoro has a Private Info Protection service that monitors your private information over time and removes it as they pop up. This continuous service costs $19.95 a month or $119.99 for the year and ensures your information doesn’t reappear on data brokers’ websites.
There’s also a free scanning service that’s part of their overall service that alerts you when your information has popped up on one of these sites.
Life with Zoro
Zoro’s core offering is convenience. You can freely take the time to individually reach out to each data broker and go through the opt out and removal process. However, each company has its own process, timelines, and directions so it’s a hassle and time-intensive process to ensure the information gets removed.
The one-time charge to remove your data exists to save you time and frustration. The same is true if you opt for their continuous Protect Private Info service, providing peace of mind as you live your life online knowing your info is less likely to make its way onto websites you’ve never heard of.
If you choose to only use their free scanning service, it will tell you that your information is “likely exposed” but doesn’t specify what information is exposed. However, if you’re looking at your Google Results through Brand Yourself (part of their free offering), you’re able to see whether or not your information is popping up on some of these directory sites and whether it’s easily accessible via a simple search of your name.
Of course, you can always check the websites yourself and see if your info is available. It’s not a perfect system but it’s a way around Zoro’s paid option.
Why we recommend Zoro
Zoro is reliable and relatively inexpensive for what it provides. While the one-time directory removal is on the hefty side, the ongoing monitoring and removal service is very affordable, especially if you choose the per year price.