Want more privacy? Here are 5 free ‘opt-outs’ that will take you just a few minutes


Privacy in the age of the internet seems like a pipe dream—but there are some quick and easy ways to take back your data.

Whether it’s robocalls, junk mail, spam emails or catalogs you never signed up to receive, the World Privacy Forum recently put together a list of 10 opt-outs that take only minutes (and sometimes seconds) to take advantage of. Some of them cost money, but we’ll focus on a few free ones that should help take you off the marketing grid with no headache.

1. Join The “Do Not Call” Registry

Chances are, you’ve heard of the National “Do Not Call” Registry but have you taken advantage of it? Set up in 2003, it’s a list managed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that contains phone numbers telemarketers are not allowed to call. Unfortunately, the list doesn’t apply to political calls, charity calls and calls from businesses that you’ve done business with in the past six months, but it will cut down on automated junk calls.

How to take advantage: Register your cell or home phone online, or call 1-888-382-1222 to opt out by phone.

Flickr | rejon

2. Opt Out Of Pre-Approved Credit Offers

You’ve probably thrown away about a million of those junk-mail envelopes that say you’ve been “pre-approved” or “pre-screened” for a new credit card or insurance plan. Heck, the mail carrier will probably drop one off today! To put an end to those, you can add your name to a list endorsed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Signing up will take your name off pre-approval lists from the major credit reporting agencies for either five years or forever, depending on which you want.

How to take advantage: Sign up online. Joining the list costs nothing but does require you to enter your Social Security number.

Flickr | amishsteve

3. Tell Your Bank Not To Share Your Information

Banks obviously have all kinds of information about your shopping habits that marketing companies would love to get ahold of. Many banks share their clients’ personal financial information with third parties, but they can’t if you don’t let them. The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has plenty of information about the rights you have for protecting your financial information from being shared.

How to take advantage: Unfortunately, there’s no magic list to join that will keep your bank from sharing your information, but every bank is required to give you that right. Simply call your bank or visit its website to find its privacy notice, which will include instructions for opting out.

Getty Images | Mario Tama

4. Pull Your Information Off Of FamilyTreeNow.com

Earlier this year, the internet went crazy when people found out a website was legally giving away people’s personal information for free. The “genealogy” website FamilyTreeNow.com allows users to freely find sensitive information like your home address (current and former), age and names of relatives. Sound scary? Thankfully, there’s an easy way for you to be taken off the site.

How to take advantageFollow these steps on the website and your name should disappear from its list within about 48 hours.

5. Don’t Let Facebook Share Your Data With Advertisers

Facebook can be a nightmare for people who value their privacy, but the company has made its platform more customizable for people who want extra security. There is one easy setting you can change to keep Facebook from sharing your user data with advertisers on non-Facebook sites.

How to take advantageFollow these instructions. Under “Account Settings,” select the “Ads” subheading and edit the setting next to “Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies” to say “No.” (with pictures!) for an easier walkthrough on opting out.

Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

Want more options for opting out of data collection? Visit Consumer Reports and the World Privacy Forum for even more options.

About the Author

Clint Davis

When he's not writing or spending time with his son and wife, Clint is probably watching sports, an old movie or adding to his VHS collection. A lifelong Ohioan, he's based in Columbus, and has two big dogs and a cat that's as soft as cotton. More.

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