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Talking Surveillance Once Again–Know Your Phone Carrier More Precisely

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phone moneyWhen you log onto the Verizon Precision Market Insights website, the giant catch phrase that jumps out at you in bold red letters is:

“Know your audience more precisely.

Drive your business more effectively.”

Verizon is pulling no punches when it comes to letting advertisers know that they have valuable data- OUR data- and they’re willing to share it.  For a price of course.  Phone carriers, who see a continued decline in contract subscriber growth and voice calls, are hoping to generate new sources of revenue by selling the data they collect about us.  They already collect information about user location and Web surfing and application use (which informs them about such things as travels, interests and demographics) to adjust their networks to handle traffic better.  Now they have begun to sell this data.

Note: Verizon customers can OPT-OUT of this data sharing by logging into their accounts online and following the opt-out instructions. I recommend that you do so immediately.

Instead of seeing themselves just as providers of valuable services to their customers by providing a means of communication, carriers now see the potential profit beyond the service.  Businesses such as malls, stadiums and billboard owners can gather information about the activities and backgrounds of cellphone users in particular locations.  For example, Verizon’s data service is being used by the Phoenix Suns to map where people attending its games live “in order to increase advertising in areas that haven’t met expectations”, according to Scott Horowitz, a team vice president.

In Verizon’s own words, their analytics platforms allows companies to:

  • Understand the demographic, geographic and psychographic makeup of (their) target audience.
  • Isolate where consumer groups work and live, the traffic patterns of a target audience and demographic information about
what groups visit particular locations.
  • Learn what mobile content (their) target audience is most likely to consume so (they) can cross-sell and up-sell more easily.

The program does not include information from Verizon’s government or corporate clients and individuals do have the right to opt out on Verizon’s website.  Some European companies have launched similar programs and Jeff Weber of AT&T says they are studying ways to analyze and sell customer data while giving users a way to opt out, but at this point they do not have a similar product.

Carriers do acknowledge the privacy issues related to such data surveillance and companies say they don’t sell data about individuals but rather about groups of people. But Chris Soghoian, a privacy specialist at the American Civil Liberties Union, is worried according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.  In it, he says “the ability to profit from customer data could give wireless carriers an incentive to track customers more precisely than connecting calls requires and to store even more of their Web browsing history. That could broaden the range of data about individuals’ habits and movements that law enforcement could subpoena.  It’s the collection that’s the scary part, not the business use.”

In other words, it’s about more than well-meaning companies collecting our data; it’s that their company databases are vulnerable to attacks by hackers, competitors and foreign governments. And when a breach happens, it’s our data that goes missing.

John Sileo is a keynote privacy speaker and CEO of The Sileo Group, a privacy think tank that trains organizations to harness the power of their digital footprint. Sileo’s clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and businesses looking to protect the information that makes them profitable. Watch John on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Sileo Identity Theft Prevention & Online Privacy Checklist

CheckmarkIdentity theft prevention is not a one-time solution. You must accumulate layers of privacy and security over time. The following identity theft prevention tips are among those I cover in one of my keynote speeches.

  1. Review your Free Credit Report 3X per year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Opt-Out of financial junk mail.
  3. Stop Marketing Phone Calls at www.DoNotCall.gov.
  4. Freeze Your Credit. State-by-state instructions at www.Sileo.com/2.
  5. If you don’t want to use a credit freeze, place Fraud Alerts on your 3 credit files.
  6. Use sophisticated Identity Monitoring software to detect theft before it’s disastrous.
  7. Stop Sharing Identity (SSN, address, phone, credit card #s) unless necessary.
  8. Protect Your Wallet or Purse. Watch this video.
  9. Protect Your Computer and Online Identity. Privacy Means Profit
  10. Protect your Laptop. Visit www.Sileo.com/laptop-anti-theft for details.
  11. Bank Online: online bank statements, account alerts and bill-pay.
  12. Buy a Shredder (or 2) & shred everything with identity you don’t need.
  13. Minimize Social Networking Exposure. Privacy Means Profit
  14. Lock down your Social Networking Profiles www.Sileo.com/facebook-safety.
  15. Realize that approximately 50% of the worst ID theft crimes are committed by Acquaintances & Friends.
  16. Set up two-factor authentication with your bank.
  17. Stop Clicking on Links in emails and social networking posts that you don’t recognize as legitimate.
  18. Avoid emails/faxes/letters/calls/people promising Something for Nothing.
  19. Know that protecting Other People’s Privacy is part of your responsibility.
  20. For more tools, purchase a copy of John’s Latest Book on Information Survival, Privacy Means Profit.
  21. Subscribe to The Sileo Report eNewsletter and follow John’s Blog.
  22. Consider bringing John Sileo to speak to your organization on identity theft, cyber crime, social engineering, social media exposure and other topics of information exposure.

How to Opt Out of Junk Mail to Protect Identity


There are complete industries built around collecting, massaging and selling your data – your name, phone number, address, spending patterns, surfing habits, net worth, the age of your children, the magazines you buy, etc. Companies buy bits of your privacy so that they can knowledgeably market products to you that you are likely to purchase. The problem is, that data, once collected, is often breached by hackers who want to know more about you.

To minimize the amount of your personal information bought and sold on the data market, begin “opting out”.  Opting out is the process of notifying organizations that collect your personal information to stop sharing it with other organizations. “Pre-approved” credit card offers (i.e., financial junk mail) are a major source of identity theft. Those mailers give thieves an easy way to set up credit card accounts in your name without your consent. They spend money on the card and default on the balance, leaving you with the mess of proving that you didn’t make the purchases. The solution is to opt out of receiving pre-approved credit, home loan and insurance offers as well as mass marketing databases.

Pre-approved credit offers (also called pre-screened or pre-qualified credit offers) are possible because credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union – companies that collect and sell financial data on nearly every American) make a great deal of money selling your identity (i.e., name, address, phone number, age, credit score) to credit card, loan and insurance companies.  But it is your right to stop the sale of your information.

Fortunately, there are ways for you to “opt-out” of widespread information sharing (see the list of more than 120 ways below).

The Top 4 Opt-Out Opportunities:
  1. www.OptOutPreScreen.com. Remove yourself from the marketing lists sold by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is not cost for this list.
  2. www.DMAchoice.org. This puts you on a Do Not Mail list for the Direct Marketing Association. This is a free service online ( $1 by mail) and allows you to remove yourself from receiving previously unsolicited catalogs, magazines, “other” mail offers, and provides a link back to OptOutPreScreen for credit offers.
  3. White Pages. That’s right, your old-fashioned printed phone directory is the source for most of the online contact info databases. To remove your directory listing you have to contact your local phone company .
  4. www.Spokeo.com. To opt out, read this blog post about [intlink id=”1752″ type=”post”]removing your info from Spokeo[/intlink]. This is one of the more utilized sites by identity thieves, stalkers and scammers.

There is a slower and more tedious process of opting out of online directories (i.e., you have to visit every one. Some (Spokeo.com)  are more important than others (Whitepages.com) because of the information that they collect. Sites such as Spokeo.com can have as much information as your physical address and pictures of your home, while others may just house your phone number. These sites spend hours upon hours scouring public records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, and real estate purchases for this type of information.

Since most online directories typically offer a way to opt out of their listings you would think they would make it easy. Not so. They tend to hide this option deep within the site, as they don’t actually want you to leave. Luckily, The Privacy Rights Clearing House has done most of the legwork in their Comprehensive Opt Out List. I suggest starting with a few main sites, 123people.com, spokeo.com, etc. and continuously adding to it over time. Opt out of one a week if you like, and eventually your data will be less exposed. Protecting your privacy and identity is a layering process. It is easy for people to get overwhelmed, especially when it comes to online directories.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation (he shares how he lost $300,000, 2 years and his business to data breach) or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

Comprehensive Opt Out List for Marketing Databases

Major data breaches like the recent Epsilon Breach occur frequently, even if you don’t hear about all of them. With all the publicity surrounding this particular breach, people have been asking how to remove themselves from some of those marketing lists that are frequently compromised.

Opting our of marketing databases is one way to lower your risk of becoming a data breach victim.

So, how do I get out of marketing data bases?

Most databases allow you to opt out of having them share and sell your information, you just need to find out how.  Many sites make it tricky to get this done, but most sites that are selling or harvesting your information allow you to do so one way or another.

The Privacy Rights Clearing House lists 135 marketing data brokers who are selling your private information, and tells you whether or not they have opt-out policies. If they do, you have to go to the brokers’ websites and suppress your name yourself. Most of the sites have hard-to-find opt out pages, but you can generally track them down by visiting the Privacy Policy which frequently appears as a link in small print at the bottom of the home page.

Even if you opt out, unfortunately, most of these sites still retain your information in their databases, meaning that you are still at risk of a breach. But until we have stronger consumer rights governing our private and personal information, opting out is the best you can do.

 

How to Opt Out of Data Miners and Online Directories

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Whether you like it or not, your information is available publicly to everyone through online directories. Businesses and advertisers have the ability to easily find this information and then market their products to you. This means that you have never actually “opted-in” to receive these ads. Fortunately, there are ways for you to “opt-out” of widespread information sharing (see the list of more than 120 ways below).

The Top 4 Opt-Out Opportunities:

  1. www.OptOutPreScreen.com. Remove yourself from the marketing lists sold by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is not cost for this list.
  2. www.DMAchoice.org. This puts you on a Do Not Mail list for the Direct Marketing Association. The cost is $1, but it is well worth the instant trip down in your mail.
  3. White Pages. That’s right, your old-fashioned printed phone directory is the source for most of the online contact info databases. Remove your directory listing (you will likely have to the phone company every month to have your info NOT shared – I know, it’s asinine) or otherwise opt out.
  4. www.Spokeo.com. To opt out, read this blog post about [intlink id=”1752″ type=”post”]removing your info from Spokeo[/intlink]. This is one of the more utilized sites by identity thieves, stalkers and scammers.

There is a slower and more tedious process of opting out of online directories (i.e., you have to visit every one. Some (Spokeo.com)  are more important than others (Whitepages.com) because of the information that they collect. Sites such as Spokeo.com can have as much information as your physical address and pictures of your home, while others may just house your phone number. These sites spend hours upon hours scouring public records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, and real estate purchases for this type of information.

Since most online directories typically offer a way to opt out of their listings you would think they would make it easy. Not so. They tend to hide this option deep within the site, as they don’t actually want you to leave. Luckily, The Privacy Rights Clearing House has done most of the legwork in their Comprehensive Opt Out List. I suggest starting with a few main sites, 123people.com, spokeo.com, etc. and continuously adding to it over time. Opt out of one a week if you like, and eventually your data will be less exposed. Protecting your privacy and identity is a layering process. It is easy for people to get overwhelmed, especially when it comes to online directories.

John Sileo speaks on information control, identity theft prevention and data breach avoidance. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more, contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Spokeo Shows Your Home with Only a Name?

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True. Unless you have chosen to Opt Out (see below), a picture of your home is only one search away on Spokeo.com, even if I don’t have your address.

Check it out for yourself at www.spokeo.com. On most profiles, if Spokeo has your current address, they also have a picture of your home. It is the same as Google Street View, almost. The difference is that on Google Street View or Google Maps, you can’t easily look up someone’s address based on their name and find the corresponding picture of their home.

In other words, Spokeo aggregates your personal data in a more sophisticated way, ultimately giving users the ability to search on your name and peel back layers of your personal information. This has caused a recent web buzz on the subject and is pushing people to go on their site to remove information you don’t want to share with the world. A few months ago I posted a video about removing your information from Spokeo. Here are the steps.

  1. Visit www.Spokeo.com.
  2. Type in your name and click on the record that belongs to you (if it exists).
  3. Copy the URL in your web browser that points specifically to your record (you should see your name in the URL, something like this: http://www.spokeo.com/search?q=Smith%20Sample#Sample:1219812367)
  4. Go to the bottom right corner of Spokeo’s page and click on the link called Privacy (it’s in small, faded text). Alternatively, visit www.Spokeo.com/privacy.
  5. On this page, paste in the link you copied from your personal page and enter your email address (for verification purposes, supposedly) and the security code listed. This is a case where I would use a second email account (your designated junk-email account), not your main email to avoid the build up of possible spam emails that follow. It will then send you an email confirmation where you must click the URL to confirm removal.
  6. Voila! You’re information will, for the time being, no longer be included in their look up services.

Of course, this does not get rid of the original sources of data (they buy the information from your local White Pages, Government listings, probably from Google Street View), but it does make it considerably harder to aggregate all of this data in one place. Just as a word of caution – I opted out of their data base about 3 months ago when we posted the above video and now I’m back in the database. So, I am opting out again and monitoring very closely if they add me back in, at which point I will take the story to a major news organization and we will hold them accountable.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him regarding speaking opportunities directly on 800.258.8076.

Spokeo: Scary Bad & How to Opt Out

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I found out a way to get yourself off spokeo.com!

Go to the website and look yourself up, then click on your name… once you have done that copy the URL in your web browser. Now, go to the bottom of the page. In small faded blue text, click privacy (third from the left). At the bottom of this page, you will find an “Opt Out form” link. Select that and then paste the URL link you copied from the page you found yourself on and enter your email and the “I’m not a robot” box. This is a case where I would use a second email account (your designated junk-email account), not your main email to avoid the build up of possible spam emails that follow. It will then send you an email confirmation where you must click the URL to confirm removal.  Voila! You have been removed.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him regarding speaking opportunities directly on 800.258.8076.