Anyone who has used the internet in any capacity or for any period of time will be all too familiar with the dreaded opt in/opt out data collection policies that each website and service provider now offers. While these are purportedly designed to give us back control of who can access our data and for what purposes, it all too often becomes an exhausting minefield to navigate.
This leads to many people simply agreeing to the site’s suggested settings without reading the small print or jumping through the hoops necessary to withhold consent. However, doing so can lead to more frequent and more infuriating headaches further down the line, so it pays to opt out whenever you can. But what about if you’ve consented in the past, through accident, ignorance or lethargy? Don’t worry. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about why opting out is important – and how to achieve it retrospectively.
Why you should care about opting out
On the surface of things, allowing a website to track your online behavior or even giving up your sensitive information (such as name and email address) might not seem like a big deal. After all, receiving targeted ads can sometimes unite us with products and services about which we might never have otherwise been aware.
However, this last outcome is very much the best-case scenario when it comes to data collection – and it’s far too infrequent. Instead, it’s more likely that your data will be sold to the highest bidder, who will use it for unsolicited spam, to inform decisions about which products you might qualify for or otherwise negatively impact your online experience.
In the most extreme cases, your data could fall into the hands of nefarious cyber criminals. These individuals could then use it for phishing campaigns, brute force attacks, doxxing, stalking, fraudulent activity or identity theft, among other undesirable outcomes. There were more than 8.5 million Americans who fell prey to a data breach in 2022, highlighting just how commonplace the occurrence has become.
Opting out after the fact
So now you know why it’s so important to opt out of data collection and brokerage policies… but what about all the times you acceded to those petitions in the past, blissfully unaware of the danger involved? Fortunately, there are ways and means of correcting your errors and taking back control of your data even after the fact.
Fundamentally, this will involve contacting data brokers (those responsible for buying and selling your data) to ask them to remove you from their database. With thousands of brokers in operation today – and each operating under a slightly different system of handling such requests – the task ahead is a long one… but it’s well worth it in the end for the peace of mind it brings.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the time or inclination to manually process that many opt out petitions, you could contract a third-party company to do the hard work for you. One such option is Incogni, who use sophisticated techniques to send out dozens of opt-out requests simultaneously. Depending on the level of service you prefer, you can even have them manage your online presence on an ongoing basis.
When it comes to keeping your data safe online, opting out is the only way forward short of steering clear of the internet altogether. Luckily, it’s possible to do so even after the fact, either manually or through hiring the services of a specialist firm to tackle the task on your behalf.