Take back control of your data this shopping season

It’s the holiday shopping season, which increasingly means online instead of in-store. And as you surf through tons of different sites buying those perfect gifts, your money may not be the only thing companies are getting.

Consumer Reports warns that some merchants are also getting hold of your personal data and selling it.

Shopping for the holidays has never been easier. Just grab your phone and with a few clicks and swipes, you can find the perfect presents for your loved ones. But a Consumer Reports investigative reporter warns, sometimes there’s a trade-off for that convenience.

If you have an account with an e-tailer, or if you use apps and sites that require logging in, some companies might keep files on you and even sell your information to data brokers—which are businesses that collect your personal data and sell it to other parties.

So what’s the danger in that? The problem is you don’t know what these companies are doing with your data. Some might have location data on you, which could hypothetically be used to see where you worship, where you protest, or who else you spend your time with.

But limiting the use of personal data and trying to take back control of it isn’t easy. It’s often a manual process that’s tedious and time-consuming unless you use something called an authorized agent.

Several states have passed laws that allow consumers to designate a third party to make data requests on their behalf—like Incogni, Mine, Yorba, and even Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports’ Permission Slip is a new free app that provides information on how more than 100 companies use your personal information and lets you request that they stop selling it or that they delete it.

Companies typically have 45 days to respond to an opt-out request, and sometimes longer.

With these new tools in hand, you and your data can feel safer shopping around this holiday season.

You probably need to sign up for only one privacy helper, but there’s no real downside to using multiple services, other than subscription costs.

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