I had decades of digital exhaust to clean up. “Your data across different companies is being pulled together by data brokers and ad companies. If the government asked for it and spent some time correlating, it probably wouldn’t be that far off from what the Chinese government has,” says Rob Shavell, the co-founder of Abine Inc., a company in Cambridge, Mass. I signed up for Abine’s DeleteMe service, paying $129 a year for it to opt me out from databases run by brokers that sell my personally identifiable information. I gave DeleteMe all my current and previous home addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, and it removed me from 33 public-records crawlers—database services with names like Intelius and Spokeo, plus a whole lot of yellow pages.
Pierre Valade, a French graduate of Stanford’s design school living in New York, designed the Jumbo app for the iPhone in April. I gave it permission to access my Twitter, Google, and Alexa accounts, and a cute cartoon elephant (he’s got a bad memory, unlike Big Tech) got to work scrubbing away my past. In 10 minutes, all my tweets older than a month vanished, as did all my Google searches and Alexa requests. Jumbo also adjusted more than 40 Facebook settings to protect my privacy, something I would’ve had to spend several hours figuring out. “Even me, on Facebook to design that feature, I got bored. It’s too much work,” Valade says. He’s trying to get Facebook Inc. to allow Jumbo users to erase their timelines all at once, but the company won’t give him the API to do that. “Do they have two PR strategies? One where they say to Congress and the Washington Post, ‘We’re good guys,’ and another where they’re not helping us build what we want?” he asks me. I don’t have an answer, because I’m avoiding Facebook. Also, because it didn’t respond to requests for comment.
So much more at the link, it’s disturbing.
FLASHBACK: Hotel Googlefornia. “Hill did literally everything an internet-connected human being can do to disconnect themselves from Google. But you don’t have to be a Google customer in order to have the company garner 100,000 little bits of data about you every single week. Or as Hill herself says, ‘Google, like Amazon, is woven deeply into the infrastructure of online services and other companies’ offerings, which is frustrating to all the connected devices in my house’.”