Remove Your Personal Information from Public Databases with Safe Shepherd
May 30, 2012
Shortly after Robert Leshner started building Safe Shepherd, his father had his identity stolen. He only realized this when he saw $1,000 checks being cashed on his bank account. When Leshner did a Google search of his father’s name, he said, the top 8 results were websites selling his father’s personal information.
“He had no idea that his data was being sold,” says Leshner. “That was a pretty scary moment for him.” Law enforcement never tracked down the thief, and the best his father could do was transfer all the remaining money to a new account.
Safe Shepherd aims to prevent cases like this – as well as stalking and unwanted emails – by removing your personal information from websites that sell it. It’s designed to be simple enough for un-tech-savvy people like Leshner’s father, who might be giving up their information in fake contests or to spammers. You just enter your name and zip code, Safe Shepherd scans the 23 “worst” data-collecting websites, and you click “block” whenever your records pop up. You can also get alerts when new records appear.
Behind the scenes, however, things are much more complicated than the click of a button. The problem is that all data broker websites have different policies, and some create convoluted processes to delete your records. Sometimes you have to fill out a web form or send an email, but sometimes a fax or a letter is required.
“This is ridiculously hard. It shouldn’t be ridiculously hard; it should be ridiculously easy,” says Leshner. (To get a taste of how hard it is, read this post on how to understand privacy policies by Safe Shepherd’s data scientist, Ben Greenberg.)
A 500 Startups company (previously called MelonCard), Safe Shepherd has removed 95,000 records from public websites and is roughly doubling its paid customers per month. The free plan only removes basic records and scans once a month, but it’ll still help you rest a little easier.