There is a delicate interplay happening now between privacy and data protection on the one hand, and the protection of public health on the other. The current pandemic we are experiencing is the first of its kind to ever be fought, and, in many cases, won through innovative technologies. Technology is being unleashed on every front, whether to measure the progress of the pandemic or to enable people to keep working from home. In recent months, plenty of tech companies everywhere have been rushing to build apps, services, and systems for contact data tracing.
So, where’s the catch? We encounter many headlines, and articles about the transfer of data or the analysis of data that mainly discuss who has access to which type of data and for how long. This is obviously nothing out of the ordinary. However, while the notion of privacy isn’t new, maintaining our privacy in today’s interconnected, hyper-rapid digital world is much more difficult to do. This is especially true now that boundaries and definitions seem to constantly vary.
The European Union has had the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in force since May 25, 2018. Europe has enacted such far-reaching legislation to restore stability and control to governments and their people and to prevent anti-competitive behavior where data is accumulated and controlled by a few. However, the United States has not yet adopted a comprehensive federal information privacy law. Instead, it has adopted limited sectoral laws in some areas.
Certain US states are also entering the ring in the fight for control over personal data, with California being out in front. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) came into effect on January 1, 2020. Since then, a number of US states have passed or are actively considering privacy legislation. And this localized approach to regulating privacy is prompting calls from members of the federal government as well as industry for a harmonized federal privacy law. But what does one do until then? What happens in cases where access to one’s personal data can risk an individual’s business, livelihood, finances or even life?
Keeping your private data private: Abine
Did you know? “When someone Googles you or your family, there are more than 40 data brokers who are collecting and selling your personal information”.
One company, Abine, has a mission to help consumers navigate and protect their online data privacy. According to Abine, when someone Googles you or your family, there are more than 40 data brokers who are collecting and selling your personal information. And yes, it is possible for your data to be removed from the online realm with Abine’s flagship solution, “DeleteMe.”
To better understand the extent of online personal data, we met with Andrew Sudbury, Abine Inc’s CTO and Co-founder.
Here, we address the topic from a variety of angles so we can better understand how to remove one’s private information from the online sphere. We also discuss how Luminati Networks’ Data Collection (DCA) platform technology is a vital component in Abine’s capabilities and offering.
Andrew Sudbury and dog
Image source: Abine.com
Could you tell us a little about Abine?
Today, millions of people are using our flagship solutions, Blur and DeleteMe to protect their online privacy. DeleteMe is the product we are using with Luminati Networks’ service. Its goal is to remove personal information from data broker websites that collect and then sell your information online. We have clients who are judges, law enforcement, government officials, as well as people who have reasons to be afraid of their personal information being revealed. Take, for example, people who have moved across the country to get away from abusive spouses. For maybe a dollar (or less), an abusive spouse can get the new home address of their former partner who fled.
Our business essentially exercises what we think should be a universal human right, which is to control the information that other people are publishing about you. This isn’t information that is necessary for the public good. We’re talking about companies that collect details about where you live, where you’ve lived before, how much you paid for your house, who your relatives are, as well as details about your social media accounts, and so on. Then, they sell this information to people who can use it for any other purpose.
This kind of information is also used by people who try to scam others or create phishing attacks or targeted online attacks. For these reasons, people want to control what information exists about themselves online.
Who does Abine partner with?
In the US, this type of abuse of others’ online privacy is not yet against the law. Therefore, we partner with several organizations, like national aid organizations that combat domestic violence, California judges’ organizations, and several law-enforcement groups. We offer free or reduced pricing to these kinds of organizations.
How does the process work?
It’s not easy to get your personal information removed from any of these data broker sites. Depending on the site, it can be a very challenging task. We undertake this process several times a year for our customers, sometimes as often as once a month or once a week. Some data broker sites will remove the requested personal information within 24 hours, while for others it can take weeks. For some sites, we have to go through the process several times before they take the information down. While there are restrictions in the US regarding the use of government data, there are very few restrictions regarding commercial use of personal data.
We have businesses that buy our services for their executives and employees. In fact, 35% of the FORTUNE 500 companies use our services.
“We use Luminati’s unblocker to look at what people’s search results will look like before, during and after each customer’s Google search results”.
What can you tell us about your partnership with Luminati Networks?
“We’ve been pleased with the very responsive service and support that Luminati has provided us”.
We rely on Luminati’s service to send these removal requests from different IP addresses. Doing so avoids us from being stopped from submitting legitimate requests. We are helping tens and thousands of people – at scale. We therefore need Luminati to make our process efficient and effective. We use Luminati’s unblocker to look at what people’s search results will look like before, during and after each customer’s Google search results.
We are not a reputation management company; we are focused on stopping these commercial entities from harvesting and commercially exploiting your personal information. To us, it makes a lot of sense to seek the services of a company like Luminati, which specializes in this kind of process, rather than build a system ourselves.
We’ve been pleased with the very responsive service and support that Luminati has provided us. In addition, the onboarding was very simple and easy. We also attended Luminati’s workshops and found them incredibly helpful.
“To us, it makes a lot of sense to seek the services of a company like Luminati, which specializes in this kind of process, rather than build a system ourselves”.
How do you expect the COVID-19 era to affect your operation?
With COVID-19, and the big change the pandemic has wrought on everyone’s daily lives, one cannot really avoid the online world now. Everything will be practiced online, and previously offline activities will continue to shift online wherever possible – possibly forever. Going forward, whatever data you have online will surely matter more.