They have your information because you gave it to them, or to someone who you (usually unknowingly) gave permission to share it with third parties.
Generally speaking, yes. While there are various state and federal laws that govern aspects of personally identifiable information and privacy, when you willingly give your information and agree to terms of service that allows the sharing of your information, they have your permission to share your information. Just about every time you give a business or company permission to have your information, it often includes permission for them to share your information with third parties.
If anyone has a desire to target you because of your profession, beliefs, or other motivations (grudges, revenge, to commit criminal acts) and wants to find information about you, it could be as easy as conducting an Internet search with your name. Such a search can produce results within seconds revealing information about you such as your home address, phone numbers, associated family members, political affiliations, pictures, and email address.
Try it for yourself. Use your favorite search engine (like Google or Bing, however we prefer DuckDuckGo.com or StartPage.com since they help protect your privacy) and conduct a search using your name. If you conduct a search with more information (like your city), it becomes much easier to sift through and find information about you that is available.
If someone intends to harass or harm you or your family, having your personally identifiable information publicly available will make it all too easy for them to find you.
Yes, you can remove the information yourself, however the websites that expose your information make it difficult to do so. The process can be very time consuming and different sites require different methods for opting out.
Try it for yourself. After using your favorite search engine (like Google or Bing, however we prefer DuckDuckGo.com or StartPage.com since they help protect your privacy) to locate information about you online, work on having it removed to see the difficulties you encounter.
Even if you take the time to remove all the information you can find, there is a strong possibility you will miss a large number of data aggregators (companies that buy and sell personally identifiable information). Missing even just one or two websites would likely lead to your information being exposed to numerous websites again because the remaining websites will have sold your data again.
While you may not have an active threat of violence against you, there are several other reasons to not have your personally identifiable information easily accessible. Having your information removed could prevent someone you don’t want to have access to it from just looking you up (like the news media or an ex-spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend), or reduce the likelihood of you becoming a victim of identity theft.
Taking steps to help secure your privacy and security is like having insurance. If you start taking steps after you figure out you need privacy because of a threat, it’s often too late. You wouldn’t install and use locks on your doors only after becoming a victim of a burglary, right?
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