Like it or not, the Internet is littered with your personal information. Every time you accept cookies, download an app or even do a task as simple as visiting a website, data brokers harvest your name, address, and phone number, potentially selling it to interested third parties.
Your collected personal data can then be used for sending you spam emails, telemarketing calls, and targeted ads. Scammers or identity thieves can also potentially make use of it. Therefore, you might be interested in removing this information entirely.
You can request this data to be removed all by yourself. But that requires effort and time. Besides, most data brokers don’t want to remove any of your information.
Fortunately, Surfshark has recognized the issue and came up with Incogni, a data privacy tool that requests your data removal from several brokers on your behalf.
Incogni acts as a proxy between you and the companies collecting your data – ensuring your privacy, and saving your time. Simply put, you get a big red button that flushes your personal information and enforces existing data privacy laws without you having to contact anyone yourself.
|🌎 Available in:||The US, the UK, and EU|
|🔢 Number of data brokers:||76|
|📆 Data removal process duration:||30-45 days|
Setting up Incogni
The Incogni setup process is incredibly simple. You just have to sign up with your email address and create a password. Once that’s out of the way, you’ll be greeted with the screen showing how many data brokers Incogni currently has on its list, ready to be contacted.
At the time of writing this, the number is 76, but Incogni reassured us that this number will increase regularly. Then, press the “Start the process” button to continue.
In order to start the process and have the rights to act on your behalf, Incogni needs (very limited) Power of Attorney, which you can grant by scribbling your signature via your mouse or trackpad.
Right after that, you will need to select a subscription plan and you’re good to go! I got immediately sent to a simple dashboard that showed the current status of my data.
Incogni uses an internal algorithm to decide which companies are likely to have your information, and reaches out to them automatically.
In my case, that included 38 data brokers out of 76 – exactly half. Your numbers will vary.
Incogni’s interface is completely minimalistic. On top of this dashboard, you’re only getting an additional “Detailed view” page, which shows the specific data brokers, main information about them, your data sensitivity, and the current status of your data.
And that’s it – Incogni makes this process as simple and straightforward as possible. Moments after signing, Incogni started dealing with my data immediately.
How does Incogni work?
Incogni doesn’t seek, collect, or research your personal data – it operates with pretty much no data collection. Instead, it holds a consistently-increasing backlog of some of the world’s biggest data brokers and sends removal requests to the companies that are likely to have your information.
So, how does it know where your information might be? In the registration process, the platform collects some of the key details about you (such as name and location). So, the algorithm may not send out requests, if, for example, a certain data broker doesn’t collect information about the people in your area.
People focused on their privacy will appreciate this zero-knowledge approach to information collected by data brokers. Incogni doesn’t hold a database full of your data, searching the Internet to see who’s using it. Instead, it acts as a mediator between your and data brokers. Incogni simply enforces existing data protection laws on your behalf.
But of course, this approach also has some negatives. With none of your information collected, Incogni also can’t check whether your information has actually been removed. What it can do is use the “Detailed view” section to log data broker responses.
The information about your data will be marked as follows:
- “Completed”, if the company reported that the information has been removed or was never held.
- “In Progress”, if the process is underway.
- “Rejected”, if the data broker refused to delete the data. Once the data broker explicitly denies processing the request, Incogni continues contacting to ensure your data is removed. If needed, data protection agencies are contacted in order to understand what is the reason for refusal and if possible find ways to change their decision.
- “Not started”, if the data removal process is, well – not started.
Incogni also gives a general description of what data each broker collects and where it is used: I’ve found several companies collecting my name, phone, address, employment history, credit data, and more for financial, insurance, recruitment, or advertising purposes.
The sensitivity of data collected by these brokers is measured in “Skulls”, one skull meaning not very sensitive, and five skulls being the most sensitive.
None of my personal data had more than three skulls. According to Incogni, four and five skull ratings are very rare and would constitute sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or credit card information. So all in all, I’m glad to not have found more than three skulls anywhere on my data.
Getting data removed with Incogni
A very easy signup process and a very simple dashboard hide a pretty elaborate data removal process – which was as simple as it gets. Incogni will send such emails to the brokers, including your main information, asking for all traces of data connected to it to be removed.
As per the rights, data brokers are given a window of time to respond – so, this process won’t be instantaneous.
After a couple of weeks, 8 data brokers have already deleted all of my data, as notified by my Incogni dashboard.
I haven’t received any emails from data brokers trying to bypass Incogni’s measures or asking me to complete additional actions. Everything from Incogni’s end was completely sorted out.
However, Incogni points out that there might be cases where a data broken might try and reach you directly. If the recipients of your email include [email protected], you don’t need to do anything, and if not – just forward the letter to them and let them take care of the rest for you.
All in all, removing my data with Surfshark Incogni was a quick and easy process.
Surfshark Incogni pricing
As of now, Incogni offers only one plan – you can purchase it monthly, or by signing up for a yearly subscription. Incogni costs $/month on a one-year plan, or $11.49 a month. That is lower than most similar privacy assurance services.
You may be wondering: which option to choose? And why would you even need to choose a yearly subscription?
Indeed, it makes a lot of sense to simply sign up for a month or two of Incogni, get your personal data removed, and ride off into the sunset. However, there’s one thing to consider.
Our data collection is constant and consistent. In time, your information might, and probably will, make its way to databases of new data brokers, meaning that the process of removing your data will have to begin from the start once more. Additionally, Incogni will also include new companies in its database for an even wider personal data search. If you really want your information to get wiped out, you need to do consistent checks and keep on enforcing your rights as an individual.
This is why getting a yearly subscription makes sense – Incogni will keep on contacting companies on your behalf and making sure your information is as scarce on the internet as possible at all times.
For under $70 a year, that’s a pretty good deal.
Is Incogni worth getting?
Incogni is a very simple tool – and your experiences with it will vary, depending on the expectations. I like to see it as your personal assistant, giving leverage against massive data broker companies.
I wish there were more features for American users, such as an option to be de-listed from “people search” results – Incogni says that such a feature is coming soon. So are the multiple emails on one account, and family plans. But even as it is right now, Incogni is an excellent simple tool for making sure your data isn’t sold to the highest bidder.
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Does Incogni keep information about you?
Incogni only takes your name and email address. It doesn’t keep any other user data and focuses on contacting data brokers on your behalf, asking for sensitive information to be removed.
Is Incogni expensive?
Incogni is actually quite affordable, with plans starting from $/month. This is lower than many similar privacy products in the market, making Surfshark Incogni one of the best value options in the market.
How does Incogni work?
Incogni contacts data brokers on your behalf, asking them to remove all the information associated to you. When that information is removed, you get notified in the product's dashboard.