What Can You Do?
Controlling Personal Information
Methods for controlling access to your personal information range
from technical legal remedies to simple common sense. This section
describes some general methods that other people have used
effectively to keep their personal information personal.
- Assume that information you give is not secure, and use
PGP to protect
privacy and integrity of personal information.
- Withhold personal information when
- Use some of our strategies and protect yourself by giving
innocuous but inaccurate information. (Some of these are even
- Get periodic updates of your personal data, like a copy of your credit report.
- Regain control of your personal information.
- Challenge any inaccuracies in your credit report.
- Ask to be put on a "do not call" list, as the
requires companies to maintain.
- Ask to have your social security number changed if it has
been misused or confused with someone else's.
- Find out more information about privacy
Withholding Personal Information
Social Security Numbers
- Private Employers
- If the government requires your social security number (for example,
it is required for tax records), then your employer must provide a Privacy
Act notice. Disclose your social security number only after you have
been given an offer, rather than during the interview, when it is unnecessary
and can be used to find information about you that you might not want
- On a Deed of Trust
- The National Mortgage Association reportedly requires your
social security number. However, you may have it left off the
deed of trust, since it will be on other forms that are
not public records.
- Medical providers
- Your social security number is not required on your medical
records, although many places will use it as a key. It may be
required if your employer uses it to identify a group plan.
- Driver's License applications
- You may ask for another number if your state DMV uses
social security numbers as identifiers. There must be a
Act statement on the form.
- Medical Records
Be sure to give only as much information as is required to make a
diagnosis. Remember the story of the woman whose records were used
for something else, and information aout a thirty-year-old adoption
More information is available from other
Strategies for Keeping Information
Best "Incorrect" (but
Innocuous) Information to Use
This comes in very handy when you know that you are
not required to divulge the information, but someone else insists
that you must, and you are tired of arguing. It also works well for
filling out those business reply cards.
- Social Security Number: 078-05-1120.
This was printed on "sample" cards which were put in wallets during the 1940's
and 1950's. Most clerks probably won't recognize it as fake, but it won't interfere
with other social security numbers and the IRS and the SSA (Social Security
Administration) recognize it as a fake. Advertisements use numbers in the range
987-65-4320 through 4329. [Information from the SSN
- Addresses: Hometown parks, city halls, and police stations are
If the location doesn't matter, try this:
3500 S. Wacker, Chicago, IL 60616 (Comisky Park).
- Telephone Numbers: 1+ 202 224 3121.
This is the congressional switchboard.
- Lease your time and telephone.
- Bob Arkow, a California resident, has a number of methods
to prevent unwanted calls. First, when ordering products or
services, he sends an agreement with his check. The agreement
forbids the company to call him or to give out his unlisted
number. By endorsing the check, the company agrees with his
terms. Those terms include a statement that his time and
telephone are available on a "for hire" basis of $500 per call.
(This is an amount stipulated by the Telephone Consumer
Protection Act [TCPA]).
- Request a copy of the do-not call policy.
- To deal with unwanted telephone solication, he recommends
not just hanging up, but asking that a copy of the company's
do-not-call policy (which they must have by law) be faxed to
him. This is much more expensive for the company.
- Information from
More about Privacy and Personal Information
EPIC Privacy Page
EPIC Home Page