Q and A: How much of my personal info is online?

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - KARE 11 reporter Camille Williams talked to Sean Lanterman about personal online information. Watch for more on KARE 11 Wednesday night at 10 p.m. "What can people find by Googling me?"

Q and A with Sean Lanterman, Director of Incident Response, Computer Forensic Services

Most Minnesotans probably don’t even realize how much of their information is actually available online. How can we keep our information from being shared without our knowledge?

The answer can be as simple as not giving it away. Data brokerage sites will often cull information from social media—information that many Minnesotans willingly and publicly give up. As another example, if a retailer asks for your phone number or email address, ask why, and 99 percent of the time decline to share it. On the other hand, we take advantage of technology and don’t live in an information bubble. Therefore, Minnesotans’ information may be online because it is considered public. Those cases may require “take down” requests, the processes for which vary.

If someone finds information about themselves online and it’s incorrect, how can you correct it?

It depends on the person or entity posting the information. Even if a website is hosting false information, there is no universal process for “take down” requests. Sometimes websites or individuals will refuse to take it down altogether. Other times, they may agree to remove the material, but there is no guarantee when it will be taken down or corrected. I’d recommend that Minnesotans contact an attorney if they find false information about themselves online.

Often times, finding these sites can be difficult because we might not even know they exist. Even if it might be time consuming, is there anyone we can contact or anywhere we can go to find these sites?

Unfortunately, there is no “one-stop-shop” to take down personal information posted online. Many online data brokerage sites will honor requests to have personal information removed. The processes, however, vary by website and each must be requested individually. Once information is taken down, it is important to note that it may be republished later. Additionally, many sites require that additional information or identification (including scans of driver’s licenses) be produced in order to fulfill a take down request. In such a case, I think that the cure is worse than the disease.

Any tips you can provide to help people keep their information private? Or is legislation really the key to require data brokers to be more transparent and give consumers more control over their information?

I think personal information security can never be delegated, even to the government. If new privacy law were to be legislated, it is best to ensure that individuals remain diligent in managing their online presence by limiting the information they provide and issuing take down requests when appropriate. I think legislation could only make the burden of personal diligence easier, but not assume the responsibility entirely.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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