Ten (Easy) Ways to Protect Your Privacy

EPIC‘s Chris Hoofnagle posts his Consumer Privacy Top 10, ten things US consumers can do to safeguard their privacy. I agree with Michael Froomkin that this list stands apart because it suggests actions that are very do-able.

1. OPT OUT OF PRESCREENED OFFERS OF CREDIT. By calling 1-888-567-8688 or by visiting https://www.optoutprescreen.com/, you can stop receiving those annoying credit and insurance offers.

2. STOP YOUR PHONE RECORDS FROM BEING SOLD. Call your landline and wireless phone companies and request to opt-out of “CPNI” sharing. CPNI is your call records information; most telephone companies sell this data.

3. KEEP YOUR BANKING RECORDS PRIVATE. Under federal law, your bank can sell your account information, including your bank balances, unless to direct them not to. Call all the banks that you use and ask to opt out from all information sharing.

4. GET FREE CREDIT MONITORING. All Americans are now entitled to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. You can perform a free form of credit monitoring by requesting one of your three credit reports every four months. Visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

5. DO-NOT-CALL REGISTRY. Enroll your telephone numbers (both landline and wireless) in the Federal Trade Commission anti-telemarketing list by calling 1-888-382-1222.

6. SAFEGUARD YOUR SSN. The Social Security number is the key to your identity. Those who have it can steal your identity and engage in fraud. Do not keep your Social Security Card or any other document that contains your SSN in your wallet. And don’t give out your SSN unless it is in a tax or employment context.

7. END STUDENT PROFILING. Your children’s schools can sell personal information to marketers and recruiters. Federal law allows you to opt out of this information sale.

8. AVOID LOYALTY PROGRAMS. Supermarket and other “loyalty” cards track your purchases and make it easier for companies to sell your information. Be loyal to stores without loyalty cards. If you have to use a supermarket shopping card, be sure to exchange it with your friends or with strangers.

9. SECURE YOUR ACCOUNTS. Be sure to place a password on your banking, telephone, and utilities accounts. With a password in place, it makes it more difficult for others to access your information.

10. ENGAGE IN PRIVACY SELF-DEFENSE. Don’t give your phone number or other personal details to businesses unless they really need it. Be sure to ask businesses how they use your personal information, whether they sell it, and how they protect it.

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