The naysayers will tell you privacy is a lost cause. Don’t listen to them. Protecting your information is about taking small but meaningful steps, and thanks to a free new app from Consumer Reports, it’s easier than ever before. The non-profit just rolled out a tool called Permission Slip. Downloaded it, enter a few details, and the app will march across the internet and do the work for you.
Permission Slip is a years-in-the-making service that takes advantage of state laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which force companies to let consumers opt out of having their data sold or request their data be deleted altogether. There are a smattering of other state laws like CCPA, but even in states without special privacy rules, most big companies honor data requests for everyone. It takes a lot of work to ask a bunch of different companies to respect your data dignity, but Permission Slip simplifies the process and makes the privacy requests on your behalf.
“People need and deserve control over the sensitive details of their lives, particularly in a market where every click and purchase is carefully tracked. said Ginny Fahs, Director of Product R&D for Consumer Reports’ Innovation Lab. “This free app makes it simple to control the personal information companies have about you.” (Disclosure: this reporter formerly worked in Consumer Reports’ newsroom, which is separate from the company’s Innovation Lab.)
First up, the app recommended Ticketmaster, the internet’s recent favorite punching bag. It took one extra minute to type in my information because Ticketmaster was my first target. But once you fill out the form, it literally takes one tap for every other company going forward. You can choose to opt out of data sales or ask the company to delete your data altogether. I went with the no-sales request, and after Ticketmaster, I hit CVS and Disney for good measure. The app also offers an Auto-Request feature, which hits a number of data brokers automatically to tell them to knock it off.
Not only does the app take control of your data, but it also tells you what companies might have on file about you, information about a dozen states now force businesses to disclose. Permission Slip says that Taco Bell, for example, collects information including GPS data, online tracking information, financial details, customer support chats, and even data collected from in-store cameras and sensors.
Consumer Reports says these data requests typically take about 15 days to complete. You can turn on optional notifications if you want updates, and the app has a dashboard to keep you posted on your privacy progress. Some companies may email you directly to confirm your request is authentic.
According to the app, it’s already sent out 246,000 data requests and 737,000 emails on behalf of Permission Slip users as of press time.
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