Guarding your privacy online is becoming increasingly hard, even for those of us who really want to keep our private information to ourselves. All across the net, information brokers have set up shop and will happily sell whatever private information they were able to gather about you to the highest bidder. This includes both marketing companies, as well as services like Radaris that sell “background reports” to consumers. MelonCard, which officially became a member of startup incubator 500 Startups latest class today, wants to help you regain control over your private information. The service check which brokers have compiled a profile of you and your online activities and then allows you to purge your records with just a few clicks.
(Note: the site is going through some growing pains today, so it may be a bit slow or unavailable at times. Just keep trying or check back tomorrow if things don’t work today. It’s worth the wait.)
MelonCard’s Founders: Privacy Sucks
As the service’s founders Robert Leshner and Geoff Hayes note, “Privacy sucks. And by sucks, we mean, the state of privacy sucks, because there’s hardly any of it. Our personal information has made its way online, and it’s being distributed everywhere. Our cell-phone numbers, political views, criminal records, shopping transactions, favorite color, you name it, its online.”
Who Knows What About You?
Once you sign up for MelonCard, the service will ping the various online information brokers in its database (including RapLeaf, Acxiom, and Radaris) and give you an idea of the kind of information they have collected about you.
Once you decide you want to delete your information from one of these services, you just click the “remove” button, solve a CAPTCHA and you’re almost done. Depending on the information broker, you may have to confirm your request by email. So it’s not all automatic, but if you value your online privacy, it’s well worth the effort.
In total, MelonCard currently supports removal of your data from 16 providers (and they each may have multiple records for you, too), but only half of these are available with the service’s free plan. To purge your data from sites like PrivateEye, USA People Search or WhitePages, you have to subscribe to the company’s $7/month premium plan.