A Privacy Maze: Why Sites Refuse Removal & How You Can Help Unblock Results
May 9, 2023
The digital maze of online removal requests can be overwhelming, but armed with the right tools and guidance, you stand ready to reclaim control over your data. Kanary’s aim is to make privacy as easy as possible, but sites can be slow to respond. In these cases, we ask you for a few minutes of your time and help. We recently launched a new feature that makes it easier for you to send opt out emails from your personal email. We launched this feature because this is the fastest way to get the removal done and we always want to provide our members with the fastest options. You may have questions about why a verified email is required so we’re sharing exactly how it works.
Navigating Safely - Vetting Websites:
We also send test emails to websites, meticulously tracking responsiveness and potential misuse. Unlike some services, we refuse to compromise your safety for expedience. Certain competitors, have been reported sharing user data with risky sites that cause users to receive harmful emails (source: reddit).
An example of our diligence is our research into PeopleConnect, owner of numerous data aggregator sites like Intelius, US Search, ZabaSearch, Addresses.com, TruthFinder, and Classmates.com. Crafted right, an email request to PeopleConnect can strike a significant blow for your privacy, removing your data across these platforms. We've vetted PeopleConnect, marking it as safe and effective for such requests.
Deceptive Passages - Alias Emails:
While services like AnonAddy and Firefox Relay grant an additional layer of privacy, many websites, including those under PeopleConnect, require personal emails for data deletion requests. A personal email may be one tied to a record that PeopleConnect aggregated about you or it may be an email on a trustworthy platform like gmail. These sites employ human reviewers, and a request from an authentic, human-sounding email carries more weight. We sometimes need your help here, but remember, your involvement accelerates your data removal and restores your safety.
The Final Turn - Identity Verification:
The labyrinth's center looms, but a final challenge awaits: identity verification. Websites often demand proof of identity before processing a data deletion request, which could involve email verification, two-factor authentication (2FA), or, in some cases, a scanned copy of a government-issued ID.
We advise against sending copies of government identification unless absolutely necessary. Most sites will comply with your request if you push back, share other helpful context about your request, or share a less sensitive document like a school ID or utility bill. If you decide to proceed with providing proof of ID, blur all sensitive information, including your photo, before submission. You should only provide the bare minimum required to verify your identity, and no more. We recommend using a free, open source, locally-hosted image editor like Gimp to update photo IDs, not one that requires uploading images to the cloud.
Automating Your Journey:
At Kanary, we're building mechanisms to automate these processes, maintaining the personal touch necessary to get results. This includes requesting limited access to your email to handle data removal requests on your behalf and generating personalized emails that websites are more likely to respond to. We continue to innovate and iterate and work with you so we can quickly take action, remove risks, and keep you safe.