All your private data is being sold. Here’s how to opt out.

By

simple opt out
If you don't worry about your data being sold, here's a nice spot of sand where you can bury your head.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Did you know that Home Depot shares your “name, address and transactional information … with third party companies”? Or that Marriott Hotels discloses “Personal Data and Other Data with select Strategic Business Partners”?

What about this snippet from The New York Times’ privacy policy: “If you are a U.S. print subscriber, we may exchange or rent your name and postal mailing address.”

The bad news is, pretty much anytime you share your data with a U.S. company, it will sell that data to somebody else. The good news is that you can opt out. And the even better news is that there’s one place to get all the information you need to do it.

Abusive relationship

This kind of abuse isn’t exclusive to U.S. companies, of course, but the lack of any decent government regulation makes it easier to get away with than in other places. And of course anyone using these sites from outside the United States can still have their personal data — including their name, address, purchases history, hotel stay details and everything else — sold to anyone who wants them, despite the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and its extra protections.

There are two options. The best is never to use companies that sell your data. But if you decide on that path, then you may as well just unplug your internet right now.

The second is to opt out of this data “sharing.” And that’s where Simple Opt Out comes in.

Simple Opt Out

Simple Opt Out is a list of companies that collect your personal details, and either sell them on or use them to target ads. The list is more of a table, with fields that give you:

  • The name of the company.
  • What personal data it sells.
  • A link to the privacy policy (plus a snippet of that policy, to get you really riled up).
  • A link to the page where you can opt out, or to instructions on opting out.

Visit Simple Opt Out, and prepare to get angry.

Apple is on the list, too

Apple does not escape the list. It’s on there because it shares “Interest- and location-based ads” from iOS, Mac and Apple TV. The info collected is used for Apple’s own ad platform, but some of that information is shared with advertisers. The explanation for what is shared with whom is anything but clear, so your best bet is to opt out altogether.

Good luck opting out of data harvesting

Simple Opt Out is a solid resource, and the deep links to actual pages where you can quickly opt out from having your personal details exploited is pure internet gold. But of course there are plenty of companies that are not on this list. And then there’s Facebook.

The Simple Opt Out list includes Facebook, but as we know, the company is hell-bent on tricking you into giving up as much information as possible. Even if checking a few boxes helps to stem that torrent of data for now, it won’t last long.

Still, Simple Opt Out is a fantastic site. It’s worth having it around just as a reminder of how much the internet knows about you — and how abusive companies’ use of that information remains.