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Top 10 companies that mine and sell your data: opt out now

(Tech News) Data mining is increasingly frequent, and it is alarming how many companies are selling information about you; here is how to opt out of the biggest offenders’ lists.

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Who is collecting and selling your data?

By now, you know that your information is valuable and is being sold and traded in the free market. Every click is tracked, email addresses are sold, and sometimes you just want it all to stop.

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Lifehacker recently reposted a list similar to one on Reddit, detailing the top 50 companies who are mining and selling your data. Here is a look at the top ten on that list and how you can opt of MORE. All of the companies in this top ten list are data brokers, so each removal is different and in some cases, complicated.

Below is a list of where to go and what to do:

1. Ameridex

Ameridex: will process email and postal mail opt-outs where required by law. In general, this applies to police officers and other public officials. Their data is pulled from public records and is over seven years old. They will process written requests only if there is a safety issue. For applicable written opt-outs, send mail to Ameridex PO Box 193061 San Francisco CA 94119-3051. They do not block retrievals of listed telephone numbers. You must notify your telephone company to delist your telephone number.

2. BeenVerified

By visiting the site’s FAQ section, you find the steps you will need to complete to remove your information. First, you will need search the site for your own information; you can do this from the BeenVerified homepage.

After you search for yourself, you will need to send an email to: support@beenverified.com including the following information: your name (exactly as shown in your search), your age, current address (city, state, zip), previous addresses, and listed relatives. The site does say, that it does not guarantee this will permanently remove your information, as they collect data from multiple sources and constantly update. Even after you remove yourself from this list, you may want to check back again and make sure you have not reappeared.

3. Email Finder

Email Finder is a data mining company that you can remove your data from by filling out the opt-out form. Simply fill it out and you should be removed from the site. Prior to filling out the form, you may want to conduct a search to make sure there are not multiple listings of your name/email address on the site. After filling out the form, they suggest searching again to insure that your information has been successfully removed.

4. InfoPay EmailTracer

Under their Terms of Service of InfoPay EmailTracer, you can find information about opting-out, however, it is complicated. They state according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) you may only opt-out if one of four conditions is present: (1) You are a state, local or federal law enforcement officer or public official and your position exposes you to a threat of death or serious bodily harm; or (2) you are a victim of identity theft; or (3) you are at risk of physical harm; or (4) you have evidence the record is incorrect or expunged. If any of these apply to you, you will need to follow the remaining five steps, which can be found here, near the bottom of the page.

5. Innovis

Innovis is perhaps the most difficult company from which to opt-out. To completely remove yourself from Innovis, complete the opt-out form. You can also call toll free (1-888-567-8688), or you can mail your request to: Consumer Assistance, P.O. Box 405, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495. If you opt-out online, you can also opt-out of Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Opting-out online only removes your name for five years, if you wish to opt-out permanently; you will need to do so by mail. To do this, simply print the electronic opt-out form and mail it back to Innovis.

6. LocatePeople.org

Under the LocatePeople.org Privacy Policy, you will see a section entitled, “removing your information from our databases” and this is a good starting place. Just like InfoPay, there are only four conditions in which you can apply to opt-out, but if one of the four apply to you, you will need to follow the remaining steps. They require a copy of your driver’s license, along with: your full name, date of birth, aliases, current address, previous addresses, phone, and email address. You will also need details of the records you want removed, and any applicable court orders. You can also mail or fax requests as needed. It can take up to six weeks for your information to be completely removed.

7. LocatePLUS

LocatePLUS will remove your information upon sending them an email request to do so. However, the same four conditions apply. If you are a LocatePLUS client, you can change your information by logging in, but be aware LocatePLUS states, “we are prohibited from removing records of its certified users, even after they have cancelled their account. LocatePLUS is prohibited from removing the account information of its registered users from its database for record keeping purposes.” So even if one of the conditions apply; you still may not be able to remove your information successfully. LocatePLUS also receives data from third-party providers (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion), so you will need to visit these sites to insure your information is fully removed.

8. MelissaData

MelissaData.com will block the records “they have control over” in their data base if you send them a signed letter including: your full name, aliases, complete address, any former addresses going back 20 years, and date of birth. You should also include a print out of the records you wish to have removed. Mail your request to: Opt-Out/People-Finders.ws
1821 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. They do not guarantee this will completely remove you from the site because of third-party information.

9. Meredith Corporation

To remove your name and postal address from lists that Meredith Corporation sells or rents to third parties for their direct marketing purposes, send your request to them in a letter addressed to: Meredith Corporation, Opt-Out Postal, Attn: Circulation, 1716 Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309).

10. Merkle

Unfortunately, it is impossible to remove yourself from thie Merkle list. They state, “Merkle does not collect data directly from consumers except for information collected as part of our clients’ marketing programs.”

Opt out of even more:

If you would like to see the complete list of all fifty companies that mine and sell your data, visit StopDataMining.Me.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Tech News

Study finds 1,000 phrases that accidentally activate smart speakers

(TECH GADGETS) Don’t worry about accidentally activating your nosy smart speakers… unless, of course, you utter one of these 1,000 innocuous phrases.

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It’s safe to say that privacy concerns, especially in today’s digital era, are unquestionably valid. With new video recording technology making it easier to identify people at a glance (whether they like it or not) and concerns that your smart speakers are eavesdropping on you, it may feel like you’re bordering on slightly paranoid around modern technology.

After all, even though there have been cases of smart speakers picking up on intimate conversations, there’s absolutely no risk of them overhearing private things without your consent, right? Even though it’s been documented that these devices — including Cortana, Alexa, Siri, and Google Home — have listened in relationship spats, criminal activity, and even HIPAA-protected data, you’re totally in the clear.

Oh yeah. The thing is, everything that gets broadcast into your smart speaker? There’s a completely random chance that someone back at headquarters may decide to sift through it in order to improve AI learning.

And while most of the time these conversations are totally benign, it doesn’t change the fact that a complete stranger is getting an earful of your private life. In fact, these transmissions? Are actually completely admissible in court, as several murder cases have already demonstrated. Their key evidence was none other than poor Alexa herself.

But wait, wait. These smart speakers can only get your information if you activate them, and that requires you to clearly enunciate their names. Right? Um. Not exactly. Even though you may think that you need to speak crisply into the speaker to activate it, it turns out that these devices are highly sensitive to any suggestion that you might be talking to them. It’s almost like your dog when you even remotely glance at his bag of doggie treats in the corner: one crinkle and Fido comes running, begging for some kibble and ready to serve you.

It’s the same for your smart speakers. As it turns out, there are over a thousand words or phrases that can trigger your device and invite it to start recording your voice. These can range from the perfectly reasonable (Cortana hearing “Montana” and springing to attention) to the downright absurd (Alexa raising her hackles over the words “election” and “unacceptable”). Well, crap. Now what?

It’s no secret that someone is listening in on your conversations. That’s been clearly documented, researched, dissected, and even accepted at this point. However, if you thought that they’d only listen to it if you gave them implicit permission by activating your device (which, to be fair, should not even count as permission in the first place), you were wrong.

So what’s a privacy-loving person to do? Just suck it up and try to choose between the lesser of two evils? On one hand, yes, these smart speakers are super convenient and can make your life easier. On the other?

Well, if you’re a fan of your privacy, then perhaps these devices aren’t meant for you. At this point, you’ve got little recourse. These companies will continue to use your data, and there’s nothing stopping them from spying on you. That is, unless you prevent them from doing it in the first place.

If you want to keep your private conversations private, either unplug your smart speaker when you’re not using it, or don’t get one in the first place. Otherwise, you’ll continue to give your implied consent that you’re totes cool with them butting in on your personal life, and they’ll continue to be equally totes cool with using it without your permission.

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Tech News

HEY needs to fix its issues to be the Gmail killer it claims to be

(TECH NEWS) You would hope that HEY, the paid email service, would launch without issues but it has a few. Let’s hope some of that money goes to fixing them.

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Last week, we covered HEY–a new email service that seemingly has a lot to offer–and while we largely praised the service despite it being a paid client awash in a sea of free email options, not everyone is fully on board with HEY’s inimitable charm–at least, not yet.

Adam Silver, an interaction designer focused on user experience, had some criticisms of HEY–many of which he identified as “pretty surprising oversights.” Though Silver does mention that his overall opinion of the service is good, these oversights are the focus of his review.

“HEY isn’t very accessible,” says Silver in his notes. His assessment, while self-admittedly not a holistic view, includes issues related to JavaScript (specifically when it isn’t enabled, which is something more and more companies are requiring) and lack of reasonable keyboard shortcuts for anyone using a screen reader. As Silver points out, these are fairly simple–and, thus, surprising–problems that probably should have been caught from the onset.

“All of these things are really easy to fix,” amends Silver.

Another issue Silver highlights is the inbox (imbox?) sorting. As we mentioned previously, there are three locations for email: the imbox, the feed, and the paper trail, each of which serves a different purpose. The problem with this system is that organizing emails by only three overarching categories affords little flexibility; furthermore, Silver notes that the menu for accessing each folder leaves a lot to be desired from a design standpoint.

The feed is also the subject of Silver’s criticism in that it doesn’t function enough like a traditional inbox to the point that it is actually difficult to use. Especially given the feed’s purpose–to store newsletters and such in a free-scrolling manner–this is a hold-up for sure; coupled with the feed’s lack of notifications, you can see how this problem cripples the user experience without active attention to the ancillary feed inbox.

Lastly, Silver mentions that the name “imbox” is, well, stupid. “This is not a typo but it’s not good,” he says. “You need a really good reason not to keep things simple.”

This is actually a point that we initially glossed over in our overview, but it’s another instance of a company doing a little too much to stand out–and, in doing so, potentially disrupting the user experience. “Keeping it simple” by calling the delivery place for your email the “inbox” won’t sink your brand, and the name “imbox” is sure to, at best, annoy.

It’s important to reaffirm that HEY’s driving principle–accessible email that prioritizes your privacy and charges you a relatively nominal fee for doing so–is good, and that’s the tough part of any app’s development; should they choose to follow Silver’s lowkey advice and make a few tweaks, they’ll have a winning product.

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Tech News

Live captioning via AI is now available for Zoom, if a little limited

(TECH NEWS) In order to be more inclusive, and improve the share of information with your team, live captioning is a great option for your next Zoom call.

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Zoom live captioning

The ubiquitous all-father Zoom continues to prompt innovation–and in a time during which most companies are still using some form of remote communication, who can blame them? It’s only fitting that someone would come along and try to flesh out Zoom’s accessibility features at some point, which is exactly what Zoom Live Captioning sets out to accomplish.

Zoom Live Captioning is a Zoom add-on service that promises, for a flat fee, to caption up to 80 hours per month of users’ meetings via an easy-to-implement plugin. The allure is clear: a virtual communication environment that is more time-efficient, more accessible, and more flexible for a variety of usage contexts.

Unfortunately, what’s less clear is how Zoom Live Captioning proposes to achieve this goal.

The live-captioning service boasts, among other things, “limited lag” and “the most accurate [speech-to-text AI] in the world”–a service that, despite its sensational description, is still only available in English. Furthermore, anyone who has experienced auto-captioning on YouTube videos–courtesy of one of the largest technology initiatives in the world–knows that, even with crystal-clear audio, caption accuracy is questionable at best.

Try applying that level of moving-target captioning to your last Zoom call, and you’ll see what the overarching problem here is.

Even if your Zoom call has virtually no latency, everyone speaks clearly and enunciates perfectly, your entire team speaks conversational English at a proficient degree across the board, and no one ever interrupts or experiences microphone feedback, it seems reasonable to expect that captions would still be finicky. Especially if you’re deaf or hard of hearing–a selling point Zoom Live Captioning drives home–this is a problematic flaw in a good idea.

Now, it’s completely fair to postulate that any subtitles are better than no subtitles at all. If that’s the decision you’d like to make for your team, Zoom Live Captioning starts at $20 per person per month; larger teams are encouraged to contact the company to discuss more reasonable rates if they want to incorporate live captioning across an enterprise.

Nothing would be better for speech-to-text innovation than being wrong about Zoom Live Captioning’s potential for inaccuracy, but for now, it’s safe to be a little skeptical.

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