Consumer Tips: World Privacy Forum’s Top Ten Opt Outs

 

As privacy experts, we are frequently asked about “opting out,” and which opt outs we think are the most important. This list is a distillation of ideas for opting out that the World Privacy Forum has developed over the years from responding to those questions. The list below does not contain all opt outs that are available. Rather, it contains the opt outs that we believe are the most important and will be the most useful to the most consumers.

Many people have told us that they think opting out is confusing. We agree. Opting out can range from the not-too-difficult (the FTC’s Do Not Call list is a fairly simple opt out) to the challenging (the National Advertising Initiative opt out can be tricky). Our hope is that this list will clarify which opt out does what, and how to go about opting out.

In this list, some opt outs can be done by phone, some have to be sent in a letter via postal mail, and some can be accomplished online. Some opt outs last forever, some have time limits, and others can be changed at will. If an opt out is on this list, it is because we thought it might be important enough to be worth whatever annoyance it may pose.

Not every opt out is right for everyone, and not everyone will necessarily want to opt out. It is a personal choice. Take a look at the list below, and see if any of the opt outs appeal to you, or might make a difference to you in some way. And if you know of an opt out that has been important to you that we didn’t include here, please send us your personal “top opt outs.” We’ll consider them for the next revision of this list.

 

 

Top ten opt outs:

1. National Do Not Call Registry

2. Prescreened offers of credit and insurance

3. DMA opt outs

4. Financial institution opt outs

5. CAN SPAM

6. Credit freeze

7. FERPA

8. Data broker opt outs

9. Internet portal opt outs

10. Advertising opt outs, including RapLeaf and NAI

 

 

1. National Do Not Call Registry

What it does:

The National Do Not Call Registry is a national list of phone numbers that telemarketers are not supposed to call.

If you put your home phone number on this list, telemarketers are not supposed to call you. The Federal Trade Commission manages the Do Not Call Registry. Home and mobile numbers can be on the Do Not Call list, but you can’t opt out a phone at your place of business (unless you work from home using your home phone number.) Also, the Do Not Call opt out does not stop you from being called by anyone you have done business with in the last 18 months. If you make an inquiry of a merchant, the merchant can call you for six months. Charities and politicians are not covered by the Do Not Call list rules.

Under the DNC rules, telemarketers are required to give consumers an easy and interactive way to opt out of pre-recorded telemarketing calls, for example, an opt out through a voice command or a keypress. If the telemarketing calls are left on an answering machine, the pre-recorded message must contain a toll-free number that allows you to call the number and opt out immediately. Any types of telemarketing calls already subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s rules for telemarketers are subject to the new amendments. HIPAA-covered businesses, like doctors and hospitals, are still exempt, as are political calls, and some calls made by banks or telephone companies. Even if you have an established relationship with a business, if they leave you a pre-recorded message, they have to offer you an opt out, as long as they are not exempt from the rules.

How to opt out:

You can get on the Do Not Call List by phone (call from the number you want to get opted out) or you can sign up online. We prefer the phone opt out, not the online service. To opt out online you must provide an email address for verification, and your email address will be kept and can be shared with other federal, state, or local agencies “for any regulatory, compliance, or law enforcement purpose.”

  • Opt out by phone: Call 1-888-382-1222
  • Opt out by TTY: 1-866-290-4236
  • Opt out online: https://www.donotcall.gov/default.aspx
  • To opt out of pre-recorded telemarketing calls from companies who already have a business relationship with you, you should be able to activate a voice or keypress command to opt out. If the pre-recorded telemarketing call is left on a voice mail service or machine, the message should include a toll-free number to call where you can then use an automated system to opt out immediately.

More about the Do Not Call List:

See the FTC info page:
http://www.ftc.gov/donotcall

See the FTC page on prerecorded telemarketing calls:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/12/tsramendments.shtm

 

 

2. Opt out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance (five years or permanently, at your choice)

 

What it does:

Opting out of prescreened offers will stop you from receiving offers for credit and insurance.

Prescreened (sometimes also called “preapproved” or “prequalified”) offers come in one of two ways from credit reporting files maintained by credit bureaus:

  1. A creditor or insurer may ask a credit bureau for a list of consumers who meet certain criteria, for example, a minimum credit score.
  2. A creditor or insurer may submit a list of names to a credit bureau to screen for consumers who meet certain criteria.

The result of the opt out is that you will not receive prescreened credit card or insurance offers. Many of these offers come in the mail. If you do not want these offers, or if you are concerned about someone else picking up your prescreened offers, you may want to opt out. If you do want the offers or don’t receive many, you may not find this opt out important.

 

How to opt out:

(Note: you will be asked to give your Social Security Number to complete this opt-out.)

  • Opt out by Phone: 1-888-5OptOut (1-888-567-8688). This is an automated phone system. You will have three choices: you can remove your name for 5 years, add your name back in, or permanently remove your name. When you call in, you will be asked to verify and provide some information such as your name and home phone number. You will also be asked for your Social Security Number.
  • Opt out online: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t Note: If you have previously opted out of pre-screened offers, you can also opt back in through this web site.

 

More about opting out of pre-screened offers of credit:

See FTC Privacy Choices for your Financial Information:
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0222-privacy-choices-your-personal-financial-information

See FTC Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance page:
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers

See FDIC Financial Privacy page:
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/privacy/faqs/index.html

See Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/FTC-OptOutPrescreen.htm

 

 

3. Direct Marketing Association Opt out Services (DMA opt outs)

 

What it does:

The DMA is the largest U.S. association of marketers – invoking DMA opt outs can diminish receiving marketing mail and catalogs.

Only businesses that are members of the DMA will comply with an opt out request through the DMA programs. The DMA offers several flavors of opt outs. It offers a Mail Preference Service opt out, an email list opt out, and an opt out that lets you remove the names of deceased people from mailing lists. The Mail Preference Service should not affect your receipt of mail and catalogs from companies that you already do business with.

 

How to opt out:

You can opt out of the DMA lists by visiting the DMA web site. One of the lists requires a $1.00 fee if you mail in the opt out via postal mail.

  • Mail Preference Service, usable by anyone. This list reduces mail such as catalogs, etc. It also gets your name off of some prospect mailing lists. Online form:https://www.dmachoice.org/MPS/proto1.php. If you use the DMA online form, opting out is free. If you opt out via postal mail, you have to send a $1.00 check.
  • Email List Opt out. This list will get you off of some mailing lists and may help reduce some unwanted commercial email. Online form:http://www.dmachoice.org/EMPS/. Good for five years. This list will not act as a total cure for spam.
  • Deceased Do Not Contact List. By signing up for this list, you will remove the names of deceased individuals from marketing lists. Online form:https://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc_form.php.There is no fee for the list, but you will be asked for a credit card number to verify your identity.
  • DMA Do Not Contact Service for Caregivers: For those seeking to remove the names of individuals in their care from commercial marketing lists. Online form:https://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/dncc.php.

 

More about DMA opt outs:

If you opted out and are still getting mail or email from DMA members, you can file a complaint with the DMA by emailing them at privacypromise@the-dma.org. However, remember that it can sometimes take one month or more until putting in an opt out will have an effect, depending on the type of list. Be patient.

See information about all DMA lists:
http://www.dmachoice.org/consumerassistance.php

See Information about the DMA mailing list, detailed:
https://www.dmachoice.org/MPS/mps_consumer_description.php?reg=C#how_to.

 

 

4. Bank/Financial Institutions opt out (This section applies to banks, credit card companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies, and other financial institutions.)

 

What it does:

If you opt out, you limit the extent to which a financial institution can provide your personal financial information to non-affiliates.

The financial institution opt outs are among the most important to understand, but they can also be challenging to understand. If you don’t opt out, the assumption is that the financial institution can share your data in some circumstances. To quote from the FDIC:

Unless you opt out, your financial company can provide your personal financial information (for example, information on the kinds of stores you shop at, how much you borrow, your account balances, or the dollar value of your assets) to non-affiliates for marketing and other purposes. (FDIC Privacy Choices page, http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/privacy/privacychoices/index.html#yourright)

A non-affiliate is generally defined as a company that is unrelated to your financial company. The FDIC notes that a non-affiliate may include “Service providers …., joint marketers–companies that have an agreement with your financial company to offer you other financial products or services, or other third-party non-affiliates–which could include companies that may want access to your financial company’s mailing list to tell you about other products and services.” (FDIC Privacy Choices page.)

There is a great degree of variability between financial institutions. Some do not share customer information with non-affiliates, so they do not offer an opt out. Some take an extra step and offer customers the ability to opt out of both unaffiliated and affiliated marketing. Because the type of available opt outs vary from institution to institution, you will need to read the privacy notice closely. Financial institutions are required to provide privacy notices. These notices can sometimes be difficult to understand. The opt outs are controlled in part by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a federal law that provides some privacy protections for customers of financial institutions.

 

How to opt out:

You may have received a privacy notice in the mail from your bank or other financial institution. If you missed it, simply ask for a copy of the company’s privacy notice. They are required to have one. The privacy notice may also be posted on the financial institution’s web site. Read the notice closely, and follow the company’s directions for opting out. You can opt out at any time. By law, you are required to opt out in the way the financial institution determines you should, whether by letter or phone or online. We have not listed all financial institutions here, just some of the largest.

  • Citibank:No affiliate online opt out found. https://online.citibank.com/US/JRS/portal/template.do?ID=Privacy and click on privacy for more information. Note: The Citi privacy policy will allow you to opt out of online marketing and cookies. But this opt out is not the same as the affiliate opt out.Opt out by phone: 1-888-214-0017
  • Wells Fargo:No online opt out found. Info at https://www.wellsfargo.com/privacy_security/privacy/individuals Note: Online banking customers may log on to a secure session at wellsfargo.com, and choose “Change Privacy Preferences” under the “Account Services” tab to opt out.Opt out by phone: 1-888-528-8460 Note: Online banking customers may log on to a secure session at wellsfargo.com, and choose “Change Privacy Preferences” under the “Account Services” tab to opt out.

 

More about financial institution opt outs:

See FDIC’s Your Rights To Financial Privacy Page, includes information about opt outs:
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/privacy/yourrights/index.html

See FTC’s Privacy Choices for your Personal Financial Information:
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0222-privacy-choices-your-personal-financial-information

See FDIC’s Privacy Choices page, this page has an excellent section on opt out:
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/privacy/privacychoices/index.html#yourright

See FDIC’s Financial Privacy Page FAQ:
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/privacy/faqs/index.html

See Privacy Rights Clearinghouse How to Read Opt Out Notices page:
http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs24a-optout.htm.

 

 

5. Use the CAN-SPAM Opt out

 

What it does:

The federal CAN-SPAM Act requires that a commercial emailer give each email recipient an opt out method.

A commercial emailer must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask the emailer not to send future email messages to the recipient’s email address. The law requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender’s valid physical postal address. The message must contain a clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial email. It also must include a valid physical postal address.

The federal spam law doesn’t work very well to deter most spam. However, any legitimate company using email for advertising is likely to comply. If you receive an email from someone you recognize as a legitimate company and it has an opt out, you can stop that company from emailing you again. This is a very powerful tool because it flatly prohibits more commercial email from that sender to your email address.

 

How to opt out:

Check to make sure the email is a CAN-SPAM compliant email. Some emails offer opt outs, but the opt outs are fake. How to tell the difference?

  • First, a CAN-SPAM compliant email will be labeled as an advertisement.
  • Second, it will include a valid postal address for the sender.
  • Third, it will include a workable opt out link of some type.

If all three elements are present in the email, then there is at least a chance that the opt out is offered in good faith. You have to use your own judgment about each email. Transactional emails are not required to offer an opt out. For example, if you place an online order with an Internet merchant, the message confirming your order, informing you of the shipping date, etc., need not offer an opt out. But if you get a message a month later announcing a sale, that commercial email should include an opt out.

 

More information about CAN SPAM:

See the FTC CAN SPAM resource mini-site:
http://www.ftc.gov/spam/

 

 

6. Credit Freeze (also Security Freeze)

 

What it does:

A credit freeze (sometimes called a security freeze) lets you stop the disclosure of your credit report by a credit bureau.

The result of a credit freeze should be that neither you nor anyone else can open a new credit account in your name. (A freeze will not stop your existing credit cards from working.) A credit freeze can also prevent insurance companies or employers from obtaining your credit data. That’s why if you are actively seeking new employment or insurance, you may want to think carefully about enacting a credit freeze unless you are currently a victim of identity theft.

The credit freeze is widely considered by consumer and privacy advocates as a potent measure to prevent some forms of identity theft. A credit freeze can be especially helpful to individuals who are having persistent problems with identity theft. Credit freeze is not for everyone, and not everyone has the right at this point to set a credit freeze.

The way a credit freeze works is that access to your consumer credit report and your credit score are locked when you put a freeze on the files. A lender or merchant will normally not issue new credit if it cannot access your credit report or score. The benefit of a freeze is that you can stop thieves from getting credit in your name. The downside is that you are also stopped from getting credit unless you “thaw” the freeze. You can unlock your security freeze by using a PIN to unlock access to the credit file. Some states require the “thaw” to take no longer than 15 minutes. Some allow longer times.

The ability to freeze your credit is available nationwide through the credit reporting bureaus. There is some variability in cost and details state-by-state due to variance in state law. (For information about which states have a freeze law, see “More about credit freeze” below.)

 

How to opt out:

Here are two ways to find out how to opt out for your state:

1. The World Privacy Forum’s Credit Freeze page has a list of states that either have a credit freeze law, or have passed a law. Each state links to the official state information page about how to place a credit freeze, or to another information source for that state. Many of the official state information pages are excellent, and provide tips and sample letters. Even if you are not in a state with a law, as of Nov. 1, 2007, you can still set a security freeze.
http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/credit-freeze

2. Consumer’s Union has an excellent and frequently updated page on all current state freeze laws and requirements, with a link on how to opt out for each state and sample letters.
http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html

More about credit freeze:

See the FTC Credit Freeze page:
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0279-extended-fraud-alerts-and-credit-freezes

See Consumer’s Union frequently updated page on all current state freeze laws and requirements, with a link on how to opt out for each state and sample letters.
http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html

See the PIRG state freeze page:
http://www.pirg.org/consumer/credit/statelaws.htm Links to the state laws.

See California Office of Privacy Protection. Even if you don’t live in California, this is an excellent page to learn more about how credit freeze works. If you are a California resident, you will find sample letters ready for you to print out.
http://www.privacy.ca.gov/sheets/cis10securityfreeze.htm

 

 

7. FERPA opt out (students)

 

What it does:

 

The FERPA opt out stops schools from releasing student directory information (Name, home address, date of birth, and other information) without consent, with some limitations.

FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. If you are a K-12 student or a college student, or the parent or guardian of a student under 18, you should know about the FERPA opt out. While some parts of school records may be given out only with written consent, schools still have the right to give out what is called “directory information” without student consent, including potentially giving the information out over the phone.

Directory information includes the student’s name, school and permanent address, school and permanent home telephone number, school mail box address, major, dates of attendance, degree(s) received and dates of conferral, and other personally identifying information. There is some variability; some schools also consider the weight and height of athletes, the school email address, and participation in officially recognized activities to be directory information.

If there is a FERPA opt out form on file for the student, the student can prevent the public disclosure of his or her directory information. Then, only legitimate employers or law enforcement professionals or others with a legitimate interest should be able to access that sensitive directory information. Victims of domestic violence may find filing a FERPA opt out to be crucial to them.

 

How to opt out:

FERPA opt outs are often done with a FERPA form supplied by the school. Usually school records offices will have FERPA information for you, or will know where to send you to find that information. Colleges and some other schools may post the form online. For students under 18, parents have to sign the FERPA forms. This will limit how students’ home address and other directory information can be released.

If you search the web for “FERPA” plus the name of your school, you may find detailed information about how to file a FERPA opt out for your school available online. FERPA opt outs may also be called “Restriction of Directory Information” at some schools.

 

More about FERPA opt outs:

See the U.S. Department of Education’s FERPA site:
http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
You can find more information about FERPA here, and you can find information about filing a complaint if you have opted out of FERPA and you believe the school violated the opt out.

See the World Privacy Forum FERPA tips for jobseekers:
http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/2004/08/consumer-tips-resume-database-information/
Scroll to tip #8.

 

 

8. Data Broker opt outs

 

What it does:

Some commercial data brokers allow some categories of consumers to opt out of some limited uses and disclosures of personal information.

Commercial data brokers acquire, purchase, accumulate, and sell information about consumers. Many data brokers have large data files with some information on most Americans. The data brokers have multiple lines of business that use consumer data in different ways. Data brokers offer some very limited opt outs, and not all data brokers offer opt outs. If you are a victim of identity theft, a law enforcement professional, or a victim of domestic violence, the opt outs may be important for you. Opt out policies can be challenging to find on the data broker sites. If these links below are stale, please let us know and we will locate the new links for you.

We have mixed views on data broker opt outs. On the one hand, we think that a consumer who opts out does a good thing by exercising those few options that are available. Each consumer opting out helps to preserve opt outs for all consumers. However, the data broker opt outs are generally quite limited, and it is nearly impossible to tell just what effect an opt out will actually have. When you read the opt out offerings carefully, you will see that they are often qualified. Consumers who are victims of identity thieves, victims of domestic violence, public officials, and others may have the greatest interest in seeking what opt out options are available.

 

How to opt out:

Note: of the data brokers in this list, Acxiom, Choicepoint, and Lexis Nexis are the largest. If you are an identity theft victim, a law enforcement professional, or have a strong safety need to opt out of data broker databases, start with these three companies first.

  • Choicepoint (Now Lexis/Nexis)You can opt out of some of Lexis/Nexis products, with limitations. All consumers can opt out of the Lexis/Nexis Marketing database. To opt out, go to Lexis/Nexis online form at x and then fill out the form.
    http://www.lexisnexis.com/privacy/directmarketingopt-out.asp
  • Some consumers can opt out of other Lexis/Nexisproducts. Here is what Lexis/Nexis says about this particular opt out:

    LexisNexis permits certain individuals to opt-out of having certain personal information about themselves made available through KnowX®, a LexisNexis product which makes public records available to the general public over the Internet.
    LexisNexis also permits certain individuals to opt-out of having certain personal information about themselves made available to subscribers to our Accurint® product (other than disclosures that may be made to our law enforcement subscribers).
    This opt-out policy only applies to personal information that is available through LexisNexis-owned databases. Please note opting-out of our databases will not prevent other companies or public record agencies from collecting or disseminating your personal information.
    The bases under which LexisNexis policy allows such an opt-out – in addition to any opt-outs required by law – are the following: Public and elected officials, including law enforcement officers, may request to opt-out in cases where the official is on a high-profile assignment, or under threat of death or serious bodily harm or in cases where opt-out opportunities are required by law.
    Private individuals who are facing a substantial risk of physical harm or who are victims of identity theft may request to opt-out of having personal information about themselves made available through KnowX® and having personal information about themselves made available to subscribers to our Accurint® product (other than disclosures that may be made to our law enforcement subscribers). Individuals who request to opt-out for these reasons may submit their requests online or by mail. http://www.lexisnexis.com/privacy/for-consumers/opt-out-of-lexisnexis.aspx

  • Intelius:To opt out online, go to https://www.intelius.com/optout.php. Intelius directs consumers to attach verification information, and provides step-by-step instructions. Fax a copy of your identification to (425) 974-6194
    Or Mail a copy of your identification to
    Intelius Consumer Affairs
    P.O. Box 4145
    Bellevue, WA 98009-4145
  • Details from Intelius:
    The quickest and simplest way to have your information removed from our website is to send us a request online. You can also submit an opt-out request via fax or postal mail. Regardless of which method you choose, in order for us to suppress your personal information from appearing on our website, we need to verify your identity. To do this, we need proof of identity, consisting of either:
    a copy of a government-issued ID with any photo or ID number crossed out. Examples: driver’s license, U.S. passport, U.S. military ID card, state-issued ID card, or employee ID card from a state agency, or
    a notarized Identity Verification Form.
    We will only use this information to process your opt out request.
    If you opt-out online, please be sure to include your email address so that we can notify you both when your request is received and when we’ve completed your opt out. http://www.intelius.com/privacy.php
  • US Search Profile Opt Out:You can opt out of part of the US Search record profile. Specifically, you can opt out of information culled from non-public record sources. An example of this is information compiled from magazine subscriptions – many people do not realize that magazine subscription information is often available for sale through data brokers, mailing list vendors, and others.If you would like to opt out, you can opt out online or by mail.
  • To opt out online, you will need to visit www.ussearch.com, and create an account. Then US Search asks you to log into your account, click on the “member center”, then “account settings” at the top of the page.
    See http://www.ussearch.com/consumer/commerce/about/privacy.jsp;jsessionid=0WgYmX6nG96xwxsPoXhG9A**.node4?adID=10002101.
  • To opt out by mail, send a written request by regular mail or email. Your request should include: your name, complete address, purchase date and order reference number.
  • Mail: US SEARCH
    Privacy Officer
    PO BOX 4145
    Bellevue, WA 98009-4145
  • email address: cservice@USSearch.com

 

More about data broker opt outs:

See the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Info Brokers Opt Out page: http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/infobrokers-optout.htm

See the CDT Opt Out Site: http://optout.cdt.org/ The CDT Opt out site was last updated in 2002, but it is still useful.

 

 

9. Internet and Social Media Opt Outs

 

What it does:

Some large online and social media sites allow a variety of opt outs. These opt outs can have varying effects, for example, some opt outs spare you from receiving unwanted email, other opt outs offer you the ability to make posts private. The opt outs vary from simple to complex. We don’t take the space to go into details about each opt out. Here, we point you in the right direction and encourage exploration. The sites listed here offer plentiful options for opting out. 

 

How to opt out:

We don’t take the space here to go into the details about each opt out. Some of the sites offer complex opt outs which would require a lot of explanation. Here, we point you in the right direction and encourage exploration. The sites listed here offer plentiful options for opting out.  The type of opt-out varies widely by service provider, and we recommend that you spend time familiarizing yourself with the opt outs available at each. The links below will lead you to more information about the opt outs available.

  • Google: Click on Google’s privacy policy link at https://www.google.com/policies/?hl=en-US. From there, click on Google Account Settings to view and explore your opt-out options at the Google Dashboard. The video instructions are here, and are readily available via YouTube.  You will need to have an account to view your Account Settings. You can also click on Account Editor to shape how your Google Profile will appear to others here. Note: If you do not have an account, you can click on Ad Settings to explore your choices for opting out and settings.
  • Twitter: You need to have an account to use the privacy tools. In your Twitter account, click –> Edit Profile –>  Security and Privacy. The most important privacy settings for determining whether a tweet will be made public or not are located in the privacy section. See screen shot belo
Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 6.16.41 PM
Screenshot of Twitter privacy settings, (Sept. 26 2013.)

 

  • Facebook: You will need to have a Facebook account to use the privacy tools. In Facebook, go to Account –> privacy settings. In Privacy Settings, you will see a series of options and choices for privacy preferences. These choices change from time to time, and they are complex. Take your time, read carefully, and ask questions.
  • Ebay: After you have signed in to your Ebay account, you can make choices by finding the Preferences link under My Account.
  • Yahoo: Sign in to your Yahoo account and look for the Options Link. Click on that link and then click on YAHOO! Delivers. You can then select or unselect what types of advertising email that you want by checking or unchecking boxes with descriptions. Note: if you don’t uncheck the boxes, all boxes will be automatically selected, so watch this closely.

 

More about Internet portal opt outs:

We encourage you to read the privacy policies of  web portals. The opt outs can make a difference, and one of the best ways to find out about the opt outs that are available to you is to read the privacy policy for that web site.

 

 

10. Advertising opt outs

Advertising opt outs refer primarily to advertising that is sent to you based on information collected online about you. This kind of advertising is called “targeted” or personalized advertising. Some of this advertising is controversial because it can be based on information consumers did not realize was being collected about them for future use. While there are many potential places to opt out, we have selected two key opt outs, RapLeaf, and NAI.

 

RapLeaf Opt out

What it does:

RapLeaf builds detailed dossiers on consumers tied to their email addresses. The information is scraped from social networking sites like Facebook and combined with public record data, like voting records. RapLeaf dossiers have been used in political campaigns and by other businesses. RapLeaf states its opt out will delete you entirely from their system.

The privacy risks associated with RapLeaf profiles became highly visible through an October, 2010 Wall Street Journal expose of the company. According to the WSJ,

“Data gathered and sold by RapLeaf can be very specific. According to documents reviewed by the Journal, RapLeaf’s segments recently included a person’s household income range, age range, political leaning, and gender and age of children in the household, as well as interests in topics including religion, the Bible, gambling, tobacco, adult entertainment and “get rich quick” offers. In all, RapLeaf segmented people into more than 400 categories, the documents indicated.”

Based on what we have learned about RapLeaf’s activities, we recommend consumers take advantage of the RapLeaf opt out.

 

How to opt out of RapLeaf:

  • Step one: you must accept third party cookies for the Rap Leaf opt out to work, and have a working email address.
  • Step two: go to https://www.rapleaf.com/opt_out.
  • Step three: Submit your email address where you see “Permanently Opt Out.”There is an option to opt out of RapLeaf cookies only. We do not recommend this option, as it will not completely remove you from the RapLeaf database.
  • Special note: if you are interested in finding out if you have a profile on RapLeaf, you can register with the site to see it. If you do, we recommend that you also be sure to permanently opt out of RapLeaf.

 

More about RapLeaf opt out:

See Wall Street Journal, Digits blog, How to Get Out of Rapleaf’s System

See A Web Pioneer Profiles Users by Name, Emily Steele, WSJ.

 

Network Advertising Initiative opt out (NAI opt out)

What it does:

The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) offers a centralized opt out system that allows Internet users to avoid some types of tracking of their web activities.

Some online ads appear on multiple web sites — these ads are generally called network ads. If you browse with cookies turned on (as many people do) at a couple or more of web sites with network ads, or make some purchases or register at those sites, then your activities may in some situations be tracked. In some cases, things you do online can be linked back to you personally by name or email address and then merged with other information about you.

If you opt out of NAI tracking, it means that companies that have tracking ads at multiple web sites will no longer assemble a file of all of the places you have visited, will no longer link your web activities with you personally, and will no longer merge the web activities connected with their ads with other information about you. This is how the NAI describes it:

While advertising networks do collect data on consumers who view their advertising, this data is often anonymous. However, profiles derived from tracking consumers’ activities on the Web can be linked or merged with “personally identifiable information” (PII). It can also be combined with offline purchase data or information collected via a survey, census, or registration form. These activities are most often invisible to consumers. (http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/faqs.asp)

The NAI opt out uses what is called an “opt out cookie” to tell advertisers not to track you. This opt-out can seem counter-intuitive: you accept a cookie on your computer to make sure you aren’t tracked using cookies.
How to opt out:

  • Step one: You must accept third party cookies for this opt out to work. Open your web browser and check the cookie settings to accept all cookies.
  • Step two: Open the following page: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp. You will see a prominent Consumer Opt Out area that shows you how many opt outs you currently have enabled. You can choose to opt out of all companies by clicking the Choose All Companies button. The NAI opt out is relatively simple and straightforward, and is greatly improved from past versions.
  • Note: After you have opted out, if you remove the opt out cookies from your computer, the opt out must be repeated. We reiterate: this opt out may be helpful and useful, but it also can be challenging.

More about the NAI opt out:

See the NAI Frequently Asked Questions Page: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/faqs.asp.

See World Privacy Forum cookie page: http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/cookieoptout.html

 

This information is not legal advice, and should not be used in lieu of legal advice.

 

Authors: Pam Dixon and Robert Gellman

 

Document history:

Updated August 2013, November 2010, February 19, 2009; December 1, 2008; July 9, 2008; January 28, 2008, November 5, 2007, August 6, 2007. Originally posted July 22, 2007.